A new Internet service allows dead people to communicate with their loved ones via social media. Is this crazy or just the thing to help us grieve in the 21st century?
It used to be called Second Life. But that early attempt at an alternative virtual life lies long forgotten in the Internet cemetery, with virtual living now taking place on Facebook or Twitter. And now, there's even a social media for life after death: a new, free service called Dead Social.
The idea is to open an account and start feeding in stuff that will be sent at specific times after one's demise to relatives and friends via services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If the idea works, it could become routine some time in the near future, say on your dead Dad's birthday, to get a Facebook message that reads: "Hey, it would have been my birthday today. Hope you haven't forgotten. Have a drink --on me!" That's one of the nicer possibilities. But since we're talking about virtual zombies it's not all going to be pleasant and could be more along the lines of: "I may be dead, but you still owe me four thousand. The goon squad is on its way."
Technically, it's quite simple: a legally responsible person must confirm that you have shuffled off this mortal coil, thus activating your Dead Social account which will then send out your messages at the times you've programmed. It's also possible to form groups on the site – such as Vegans and Vegetarians of the Afterlife ("For people who loved animals in life, and will continue to do so in death!").
Dead Social is the brainchild of James Norris, who launched his service in late April at the Next Web Conference in Amsterdam. Initial reactions were confusion and outrage, but he still believes he's on to a good thing: "Dead Social can also be therapeutic for the person writing the news, and for the one who reads it after that person has died."
And as absurd and macabre as is sounds, maybe the whole thing isn't so crazy. Death is one of social media's unsolved problems. What happens to the accounts of millions of people when they are no longer around? Among other issues, they use up a lot of computer space. Maybe in future they could all be closed except for the profiles of people who leave a digital will.
Dead Social could be of interest to celebrities as well. "Imagine if Amy Winehouse had had an account," enthuses Norris. "She could have included unreleased material or dished on her affair with Pete Doherty." Norris says he can easily see the day when music labels make it mandatory for stars to open a Dead Social account.
Read the full article in German
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