Being dead online

It’s not something we usually like to think about – death. I know I generally avoid thinking about it, just like other things I don’t want to do any time soon, clean my room, apply for a real job, study for exams. But other people are thinking about death and thinking about what happens to their online selves after they die. It’s kind of heavy stuff, but of course someone has found a way to make money off it. Legacy Locker is a website that  promises to execute your online will. You can organise who gets the passwords to your Facebook, your Twitter, Flickr, Youtube channel, and probably even your WordPress blog as well. You can also leave a message so that person knows what to do with them, to close them down, remove photos, make them private, or broadcast your passing to your friends and followers.

I find it all a bit weird, this article here talks about people whose partners have tweeted or updated to let others know that they have passed away. To b honest, even though I found out Osama bin Laden died on Twitter I would prefer a phone call if it was a friend or loved one I was finding out about. In the past year, a teacher from my high school passed away really suddenly and my mum found out by a phone call. Even though I wanted to share how I felt with my friends, I knew it wasn’t right to put it on Facebook – I never know who is looking. Someone else didn’t think the same way I did and posted “RIP” and the teacher’s name. The comments were “What?!?!” basically over and over again. To me, it seemed a bit wrong that this person had no control over what people were saying about her.

It’s a bit different with the generations that grew up with this technology, a young person who passed away recently in my home town has a Facebook that seems like a fitting memorial now. In the first days since he died, his Facebook wall was full of messages of people expressing how much they missed him – many more than the death notices in the paper the next week. Now, a month later people are still using the page as a way to share their memories and tell their friend what’s going on.

These experiences are obviously not very individual and they will become more common as our generation grows up. Some people will worry about privacy and what should or shouldn’t be shared or made public. In a weird way, it’s good that creepy services such as Legacy Locker are available because it is something that more and more people in our generation will think about, as we are almost completely networked online and people who feel strongly enough about it need a way to have control. I think what this shows, is that we have moved on from the question of what should be put online and what should be published – because the way we interact with technology is moving at a pace that everything is moving past that question. The new questions are how should news like this be published and when? and who to?

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networked cultures – going brocial

So last week it was reported in The Age that there was a group on Facebook calling themselves “The Brocial Network.” The purpose of this all-male group was to share photos of their female Facebook friends in revealing clothing – sometimes without their knowledge. The group had about 8000 members, including some AFL players and possibly friends of mine, or yours. This group and the way in which it was published is relevant to many of the topics covered in Net Communications this semester. The issues of privacy online, of networked cultures and sharing online are all represented in this group. Also relevant, is that the journalist who broke the story is still studying at university and has her own blog. Kara Irving could have published her scoop on her blog by herself but know that she needed the backing of an elite media institution and its front page to get coverage.

The Brocial Network highlights that nothing is private on Facebook, or anywhere on the internet – even if we share our photos and information only with our friends we don’t know how far we can trust them – especially when some friends are only acquaintances. We can’t trust in the system to keep us safe either, the Brocial Network was pulled down by Facebook, not because of the sharing of the pictures but because they broke Facebook rules by some of the users using fake identities.

This is an example of a networked culture which share materials for a shared aim – it’s gross to think about but it’s true. Although networked cultures are often idealised and exulted in the media and academia, the same principles can be used for very sinister purposes.

Does anyone else feel that the Brocial Network sets a scary precedent in terms of privacy and sharing? Should Facebook be responsible for these types of groups?