Jim’s digital footprint
The other day I was approached by a Facebook team and asked if I would be willing to give an interview about my experience with a Memorial page on the social media site, because of the way I memorialized Jim’s Facebook page. I was happy to oblige as I was hoping they would allow me the privilege of affecting some policy changes in how they maintain legacy/ memorial pages. I was ready…. So I thought.
Instead I was struck by the thoughtful questions they asked and I realized my story is perhaps different than anyone else’s! Why is it that we always seem to view life through our own myopic and self absorbed lens?! Anyway….
The biggest take away is one that I took care of as best I could at the time, but wish someone had suggested when Jim first got sick. We had talked about funeral arrangements, and we had made some key decisions to protect our finances early on in our marriage and we had a will. We thought we were covered but we had never considered what to do with Jim’s digital life or how his personal digital footprint would impact me. What is more, it never occurred to me EVEN after Biola called about getting Jim’s private FERPA documents from his faculty issued laptop, and EVEN when I was not able to read the final email to me from his Neurooncologist since Kaiser shut down his account right away.
I wish we would have compiled a list of all Jim’s digital services, including his social media accounts, passwords, email addresses, blogs, ebooks, itunes, cloud services, etc – any and everything that could (and did) slip into the dark hole of the internet that only a hacker could ever retrieve. Because everything in the technological age has moved to cyberspace, it is very difficult to track down all of the bank accounts and memberships someone has because there is no paper trail. The digital assets are not forwarded to next of kin automatically to protect from fraud and identity theft.
Jim had family and friends and work accounts that I did not know how to access; I don’t like thinking about how much of his history, memories and photos are now lost because I did not have access to his passwords and account names. I know he had Ebooks and itunes music purchased that I wish we had changed over to a disk before he died, since they cannot be gifted by a will.
I wish I had known that every online website has its own rules and conditions regarding what happens to an account when a person dies. I had no idea about Facebook’s policy until I needed it. When Jim died I was inundated with “his” friends who wanted to become my friends so they would know when his service would be and send their condolences. That planted the seed to look for the answer to how death was handled on Facebook and caused me to anxiously worry that I would no longer be able to access Jim’s pictures and friends ever again! I memorialized his page, and although there are things I wish I was allowed access to as the manager of the page, I am glad I don’t have to worry about it disappearing until I decide it is time. I am grateful for those that still have access to it and remember him there.
So, the last question I was asked was whether or not I had discussed my own digital legacy with my kids. I haven’t. I need to. So do most of us.