A young friend passed away in an accident and to my horror his Facebook profile turned into a virtual memorial of sorts, with people leaving condolences and fond reminiscences; and of course friends liking their comments too. Like the picture of my lunch, like the portrait of my death then? Where it would stay for time immemorial, for footprints in the sands of virtual time are never wiped away.
On one level, this did not surprise me. I do live a majority of my life in the online space, and a big portion of that time used to be spent on my Facebook page--that is till I realised I was one step away from Facebook envy or worse, death by Facebook family portrait--boredom.
So perhaps it would be only fitting that when I die my Facebook page became my defacto online commemoration space. After all, it is so easy to send virtual condolences through the click of a button. Far more sanitised too than having to turn up in person or call and face the messy emotions of the real person on the other side?
Besides by sharing sympathies on a social networking site, friends can show everyone else, that they have also done their bit, right?
On the other hand, there's the tongue in cheek Google graveyard a virtual space for grieving Google's ill-fated services. "Click on a grave to leave a flower, and let the healing process begin" it advices.
Into this scene steps DeadSoci.al, which allows you to schedule messages to be distributed across your social networks after you die. "It enables you to extend your digital legacy by keeping the conversation going post death" says founder James Norris. "We articulate our social networks when alive, so why not after death?"
So I can be both 360 in life and in death. Here's one way to say good-bye to my entire community. I can get a vanity url, invite friends to like my profile and entrust up to six executors to activate my social messages once I am gone.
I can continue to reach my friends and family from beyond the grave. A ghostly voice, which lives on to say everything I didn't dare, when alive. Perhaps confess my love to those I never did or use it in a show of one up-womanship? For, you may have the wonderful family pictures and the much coveted job promotion and that gorgeous holiday in Bali, but guess what, I am in control of my afterlife!
Is something like a DeadSoc.ial, the ultimate in ego-boosting-envy-invocation or simply a logical quasi-spiritual ending to my uber-technology-driven life? Either way it's a clever, timely, keeping up with the cycle of life and death in the connected age, service. At the crossroads of where technology meets the other world, it would seem.
I wondered, if Jim Morrison had lived and died in today's times, could a virtual memorial, ever replace the much visited gravestone--with its outpouring of fan tributes--at Pierre Lachaise? No, likely not, for the time I spend in the virtual world, makes me cherish the touch of real life even more.
Laxmi Hariharan is a broadcast branding marketer and an author. Find her at LAXMIwrites or @laxmi
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