2012.03.28 Social immortality can be yours

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I asked a friend Saturday if she knew about Deadsoci.al. She didn’t know what I was talking about and that was good news to me. I knew then I had a column.

I live in danger of being one of the last people to know about things. I’ll discover something interesting that’s old news to everybody else.

At the same time, I often run across something that really is fresh and I’m the one with the news. That’s the case with Deadsoci.al. Turns out it was introduced only a couple of weeks ago.

I quickly explained the service to my friend this way: It sends out e-mail for you after you’re dead.

“That’s creepy,” she said, and that was the perfect answer. When I heard an interview that morning (“On the Media”) with James Norris, the founder of Deadsoci.al, the host of the radio program said that people often describe it as creepy.

Norris said his inspiration for the program came from a British comedian who recorded a public service announcement about prostate cancer that was broadcast four years after his death.

Norris first came up with a Twitter device called Grave Tweeter. Users would create a series of tweets that would be sent out after their death. That evolved into Deadsoci.al which Norris describes as a more delicate and suitable approach, something that would appeal to a broad segment of the population that’s active in social media.

How does it know you’re dead? You must choose someone to trigger the mechanism for you. He’s also working on a “dead-man’s switch” that kicks in based on your absence. For example, if you visit Facebook every day and then there’s no activity for a month, Deadsoci.al begins sending out notices of your departure.

A scheduled release of tweets, e-mails or posts to Facebook or your Google+ account begins to flow. Ah, social immortality.

It allows you to extend your digital legacy, Norris says, to amplify your voice and personality from the grave. 

When Norris said that death should not stop someone from keeping their friends up to date on how they used to live, I could hear interviewer Brooke Gladstone start to laugh. I laughed with her; I who haven’t visited my regular Facebook page in I don’t know how many months. Sorry Friends, I’m not keeping up with your lives. It’s challenging enough to keep up with my own.

To Norris, a dead social media account is a great way for people to give their final good-byes, for example, or for someone to develop a relationship with their unborn grandchildren. OK, I’ll say it myself: “That’s creepy.”

He says a person might use Deadsoci.al to say things to someone that couldn’t be said during real life.

What came to my mind was telling someone, “You know, you really are such a jerk.” Brooke Gladstone took it in another direction: “Here’s where I buried the money.” That would set off a flurry of activity.

If the next great social media tool arrives before the user dies, all of the data in the account can be transferred over so your messages can continue for years. “Happy Birthday” from your husband who died seven years ago. I can accept that many people will find this terribly appealing, but I’m not among them. 

As for the creepiness of the thing, Norris says that we in Western culture don’t accept death well. It approaches us before we approach it. He thinks the messages from the crypt will be well accepted by the receiver and the idea of his program will change from bizarre to something really appreciated.

There won’t be a big crowd around your deathbed, he said, and your good-byes will be limited. With Deadsoci.al you’ll be able to reach the wider crowd of all your associations. Write a general “it’s been nice knowing you” letter or create a special message to individuals.

Death is no longer a barrier to your social life. Your Facebook friends can remain interested in you forever and ever and ever, whether they want to or not. I hope my e-mails won’t become annoying. You won’t turn me into spam, will you?

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
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  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
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  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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