For Pritha Shah, 42, a part-time writer and full-time mother, her digital legacy matters more than anything else in the world. She says, “My entire life has been documented through posts on Twitter and Facebook, articles on Google, images on Picasa/ Instagram and so on. So making a will on who inherits all this within e family is obvious. But I also don’t want to miss out on my kids’ 50th or 75th birthdays. So, I have made arrangements for them to receive messages from me on these landmark occasions.”
Planning for their “digital afterlife” seems to be a trend that is slowly catching on in India. And while leaving a will stating who will inherit Facebook, Twitter and Gmail accounts when the original owners are no longer around is becoming the norm, leaving messages for friends and family from beyond the grave is something that Indians too are looking into.
And the social media giants have understood the importance of this. Google, last week, launched a new tool called Inactive Account Manager. Triggered when an account hasn’t been logged into for three, six, nine or 12 months, it then either deletes the owner’s data or sends all or selected elements to a nominated person.
Facebook, which apparently has over 30 million accounts that belong to the deceased, already offers “memorialising” services. Here, an account can be kept open but will not be used for advertising. “This way, personal emails/pictures can be sent to an appointed family member while Gmail can be taught to send business email to a colleague,” says Vishal Kulkarni, 28, a lawyer, who has already activated the service.
And then there are websites that help users leave messages and comments for friends and relatives when they are no longer around.
“In the last few months, there has been a surge of websites, like DeadSocial and LivesOn, offering people services of posting messages from beyond the grave. While it can seem creepy to some, others feel it is a cool way to ensure that they are present in some form even when they have been gone for ages,” say Anil Vasan, a lawyer.