Posts tagged death

How To: Get Dead Relatives #Offline

Modern Loss is a website that seeks to create a space for figuring out how to navigate your life after death. It includes essays from those who have experienced loss, resources for the practical affairs that must be dealt with after a death, and projects and articles about grief. 

Slate:

The site was started by two women, Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who lost parents at an early age and who are clearly opposed to the toxic forced optimism of American culture that can make grief all the more difficult. They promise a websitethat will be free of people adjudicating how sad you’re allowed to feel and a complete ban on the phrase, “everything happens for a reason.”

Linked above is a step-by-step how-to guide on getting relatives who have passed away offline on a variety of social media platforms.

Fascinating background reading about death in the digital era is this 2009 report from Northwestern University’s J-school on the state of the American obituary. It discusses the A-Z of obituaries, death in the age of social media, and the relatively new phenomenon of social networking sited that are turned into memorials. 

How Many Dead People Will Have Facebook Profiles in The Future?
On his What-If blog, artist and physicist Randall Munroe estimates that in either the 2060s or 2130s, Facebook could contain more profiles of dead people than of living ones.
He breaks it down into studies of the past, present, and future:
Via What-If:

The Past:
Based on the site’s growth rate, and the age breakdown of their users over time, there are probably 10 to 20 million people who created Facebook profiles who have since died.
These people are, at the moment, spread out pretty evenly across the age spectrum. Young people have a much lower death rate than people in their sixties or seventies, but they make up a substantial share of the dead on Facebook simply because there have been so many of them using it.
The Future:
About 290,000 US Facebook users will die (or have died) in 2013. The worldwide total for 2013 is likely several million. In just seven years, this death rate will double, and in seven more years it will double again.
Even if Facebook closes registration tomorrow, the number of deaths per year will continue to grow for many decades, as the generation who was in college between 2000 and 2020 grows old.
The deciding factor in when the dead will outnumber the living is whether Facebook adds new living users—ideally, young ones—fast enough to outrun this tide of death for a while.
Facebook 2100:
This brings us to the question of Facebook’s future.
We don’t have enough experience with social networks to say with any kind of certainty how long Facebook will last. Most websites have flared up and then gradually declined in popularity, so it’s reasonable to assume Facebook will follow that pattern.
In that scenario, where Facebook starts losing market share later this decade and never recovers, Facebook’s crossover date—the date when the dead outnumber the living—will come sometime around 2065.

According to Munroe, even if the accounts of dead or “inactive” people make up a majority of users, it probably will “never add up to a large part of [Facebook’s] overall infrastructure budget.”
FJP: But what about apps that let you post posthumously — like Google’s Inactive Account Manager and Twitter’s LivesOn app? What does it mean for Facebook if dead people actively use accounts into the future? Hmm… — Krissy
Images: What-If.XKCD

How Many Dead People Will Have Facebook Profiles in The Future?

On his What-If blog, artist and physicist Randall Munroe estimates that in either the 2060s or 2130s, Facebook could contain more profiles of dead people than of living ones.

He breaks it down into studies of the past, present, and future:

Via What-If:

The Past:

Based on the site’s growth rate, and the age breakdown of their users over time, there are probably 10 to 20 million people who created Facebook profiles who have since died.

These people are, at the moment, spread out pretty evenly across the age spectrum. Young people have a much lower death rate than people in their sixties or seventies, but they make up a substantial share of the dead on Facebook simply because there have been so many of them using it.

The Future:

About 290,000 US Facebook users will die (or have died) in 2013. The worldwide total for 2013 is likely several million. In just seven years, this death rate will double, and in seven more years it will double again.

Even if Facebook closes registration tomorrow, the number of deaths per year will continue to grow for many decades, as the generation who was in college between 2000 and 2020 grows old.

The deciding factor in when the dead will outnumber the living is whether Facebook adds new living users—ideally, young ones—fast enough to outrun this tide of death for a while.

Facebook 2100:

This brings us to the question of Facebook’s future.

We don’t have enough experience with social networks to say with any kind of certainty how long Facebook will last. Most websites have flared up and then gradually declined in popularity, so it’s reasonable to assume Facebook will follow that pattern.

In that scenario, where Facebook starts losing market share later this decade and never recovers, Facebook’s crossover date—the date when the dead outnumber the living—will come sometime around 2065.

According to Munroe, even if the accounts of dead or “inactive” people make up a majority of users, it probably will “never add up to a large part of [Facebook’s] overall infrastructure budget.”

FJP: But what about apps that let you post posthumously — like Google’s Inactive Account Manager and Twitter’s LivesOn app? What does it mean for Facebook if dead people actively use accounts into the future? Hmm… — Krissy

Images: What-If.XKCD

A Day in the life of an Embalmer

The most recent piece in The Guardian’s Comment is Free series, A Day’s Work, is a Q&A with Jenn Park-Mustacchio, a funeral director and embalmer in New Jersey. The median income for funeral directors in the US is over $52,000.

It’s a fascinating series of questions about death and the embalming process (how does it work? why enter the profession? are there trade journals? do you ever make mistakes? what are the laws around embalming? which religions don’t embalm? any weird stories?) with very thoughtful, very respectful answers.

Your Digital Afterlife
Because, evidently, Google listens to Krissy, it now has a new plan in place should you, perhaps, not quite wake up tomorrow.
Via Google’s Data Liberation Blog:

Not many of us like thinking about death — especially our own. But making plans for what happens after you’re gone is really important for the people you leave behind. So today, we’re launching a new feature that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.
The feature is called Inactive Account Manager — not a great name, we know — and you’ll find it on your Google Account settings page.
You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason.
For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided.

FJP: Macabre, yes, but a reality that digital services need to pay attention to.
Image: Pleasant Hill Cemetery, via Wikimedia Commons.

Your Digital Afterlife

Because, evidently, Google listens to Krissy, it now has a new plan in place should you, perhaps, not quite wake up tomorrow.

Via Google’s Data Liberation Blog:

Not many of us like thinking about death — especially our own. But making plans for what happens after you’re gone is really important for the people you leave behind. So today, we’re launching a new feature that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.

The feature is called Inactive Account Manager — not a great name, we know — and you’ll find it on your Google Account settings page.

You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason.

For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided.

FJP: Macabre, yes, but a reality that digital services need to pay attention to.

Image: Pleasant Hill Cemetery, via Wikimedia Commons.

When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.

Tagline for LivesOn, a new app launching in March, that will algorithmically post your thoughts after you’ve died. 

Via the Guardian:

Launching in March is a new Twitter app called LivesOn. The service uses Twitter bots powered by algorithms that analyse your online behaviour and learn how you speak, so it can keep on scouring the internet, favouriting tweets and posting the sort of links you like, creating a personal digital afterlife…

"It divides people on a gut level, before you even get to the philosophical and ethical arguments," says Dave Bedwood, creative partner of Lean Mean Fighting Machine, the London-based ad agency that is developing it.

"It offends some, and delights others. Imagine if people started to see it as a legitimate but small way to live on. Cryogenics costs a fortune; this is free and I’d bet it will work better than a frozen head."

I think when I die I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. — Michael

Behind this link is the Los Angeles Times' front page, which features a graphic photo of recently-deceased U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. The page drew strong reaction from readers. Should they have run it?

shortformblog:

For what it’s worth: The New York Times’ new public editor, Margaret Sullivan, asked the question Wednesday after the Times ran the photo online. She decided it was worth running, but said this: “I would not want to see a similar photograph on the front page of Thursday’s print edition, where its prominence and permanence would give it a different weight.” The New York Times did not run it on its front page Thursday morning, but other papers did.

For several years now there has been an escalation of printing photos of people either in their final moments or just after death. Is the shock of the moment warranted a place as “newsworthy” or is the shock value likely to turn people further away from print media?

If you can’t find a moment’s privacy in death, what chance do you have on holiday in Provence?

Call and Response… or Symmetry as the Case May Be.

Recently, WNYC’s RadioLab ran a program that explored how “symmetry shapes our very existence—from the origins of the universe, to what we see when we look in the mirror.”

NYC filmmakers Everynone took note, collaborated and came back with few minute video response.

Audio. Video. Symmetry.

Pictures of people about to die, less final than images of death, capture a particularly powerful moment in the middle of a sequence of action—a child about to keel over from starvation, a woman about to be engulfed by a mudslide, a dirigible about to explode—and freeze it for repeated display and engagement. Focusing on the human anguish of people facing death, they replay this moment in news and beyond without necessarily showing visual evidence that the people in fact died. Viewers thus can and do go in many directions with an image’s interpretation—refuting death, debating its particulars, providing multiple and often erroneous contexts for its understanding.

Pictures of people about to die, less graphic than pictures of corpses and body parts, also play on different parts of a viewer’s psyche. Where images of dead bodies often push viewers away, creating a sense of distance and objectification, images of impending death do the opposite: They often draw viewers in, fostering engagement, creating empathy and subjective involvement, inviting debate.

Barbie Zelizer, Author, About To Die: How News Images Move the Public, on journalism’s relationship to images of death.