You’re going to die. What will happen to your online life? | Jed R. Brubaker | TEDxMileHigh
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You’re going to die. What will happen to your online life? | Jed R. Brubaker | TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Behdad Khazaeli
Reviewer: Leonardo Silva We’ve all heard the saying: “Technology is changing
every part of human life.” I stay connected with my friends
from around the world. I can ask my smart speaker
to help me make dinner. And just last week, while I was abroad,
I hopped on a video chat to join my husband back home
on a trip to the dog park. There is an app for everything, right? There’s even apps to help you
find the apps for that thing. (Laughter) But amid of all of this technology, there are important parts
of life we overlook, parts of the life that are ignored by the technology we use
to navigate the world. Consider Ashley. When I first encountered Ashley’s profile, it appeared pretty typical
for a 23-year-old woman. It included details
like her name, her age, location. There were even messages posted by friends
to celebrate her recent birthday. However one thing
was not immediately clear. You see, Ashley never celebrated that 23rd birthday because Ashley is dead. As an information scientist, I spend most of my days
studying our online lives. But my career, it shifted when I started
seeing profiles like Ashley’s. I started to realize
that our online lives, well, they don’t end when we do. Today in my lab, we ask questions like, ”What does happen
to our digital identities, to those Instagram photos, or your emails, after you pass away?” And I work with companies like Facebook, who are seriously considering
the role of technology when it comes to death and how we mourn. I know, it’s not
the most cheery career choice. (Laughter) But death is an important part of our life and increasingly death is a
more visible part of our online lives. You know, technology,
it can help us connect, it can inspire us,
it can amplify our humanity, but only if it’s designed that way. So I wake up every day, and I work to make
technology worthy of our lives. Unfortunately, when it comes
to our afterlives, we’ve got a long way to go. Consider all the ways dying 20 years ago
is different from today. People would gather
in a specific place and time to honor and remember
the life of someone they loved. People, place and time. Today, social media
breaks these three open. In the United States, 1.7 million people
on Facebook will die this year alone. And because so many of us
live our lives online, our profiles, they become natural places
for our friends to gather and remember us. As a result, more people
will experience our deaths. That 1.7 million? Those deaths will impact
over 511 million friendships. Second, those friendships are increasingly
scattered across the globe. And when our friends
can’t gather in person, they gather online. And finally time. When we memorialize
our loved ones has expanded. In my research, I’ve shown
how the news gets out quickly. We see people flood to these profiles
to express their shock, their remorse, and to begin to say their goodbyes. But in some cases,
there’s a kind of temporal slippage where some people
may find out immediately, while others, they may not find out
for days, months or even years. Now, the activity
will taper off over time, but a subset of people
will continue to visit regularly, We can see evidence of this
in the messages people post as they return year after year
to mark the anniversary of the death. There are times during the year
that people return as well, and I bet you could guess the days: you’re thinking of New Year’s
and Valentine’s Day and Christmas, and you’re right. But there’s a one that might surprise you. It’s the 4th of July. The 4th is a unique America holiday, one where we gather
with friends and family, we throw some meat on the grill, we look up at the fireworks and we talk about who isn’t here. On social media, you can read
messages saying things like, “You must have the most
amazing view from up there.” Over time the messages people
write will begin to resemble what you might expect someone to say
when visiting a grave. People drop by and say hello, to let the loved one know
they were thinking of them. They share memories, stories that allow all of us to gain a richer understanding
of our friends’ life, and updates. When we share news
of an engagement or a new niece, we continue to stitch the deceased
into the fabric of our lives. But even if these behaviors seem typical
to how we grieved 20 years ago, the difference is that now they are data. The content we post and share can move
through social media in surprising ways, and the messages
we write to the deceased, well, they’re no different. As a result, death is expanding
beyond traditional settings, like funerals, wakes,
or even those profiles. It’s becoming part of our
everyday social media experiences. And this can result in some confusion. We’re surprised when we see
death announcements that can appear out of context
in our social media feeds. We are stopped in mid-scroll and reminded
of a loved one who’s passed way, while checking our phone
on the walk to our car. And while we cherish the opportunity
to reflect on the life of someone we love, we are shocked when their death – and our grief – is treated irreverently. Consider, for example,
Eric Meyer’s widely circulated experience with Facebook’s Year in Review. It’s that feature that comprises
a bunch of video highlights from the previous year. While Meyers’ friends
were all sharing videos featuring birthdays
and vacations and parties, the celebratory video waiting for Meyer prominently featured the death
of his six-year-old daughter. For Meyer, the encounter
was nothing short of cruel. Back in 2009, there was
an even in bigger blunder. Facebook had released this feature
called “Reconnect.” It encouraged you to write or post on the wall of a friend
you hadn’t been in touch with recently, especially if that friend
had been inactive. And it made good sense. Facebook could let them know
there was a message waiting for them, the two of you could keep interacting
and everything would be good. Except – the algorithm running this feature was probably too inclusive
with its recommendations. The internet quickly lit up with anger of recommendations
to reconnect with ex-lovers, (Laughter) spouses you would see daily offline, and perhaps most startling, friends who had a really good reason
for being inactive. Yeah, friends who were no longer alive. But even in the midst of all of this shock and all of these complaints
about Facebook’s insensitivity, Reconnect also inspired
a cascade of comments that there were more reflective. Like this one written by a woman whose friend had died
of cancer earlier that year: “Facebook tells me that I need
to reconnect with you,” she writes. “I wish it was as easy
as picking up the phone or typing these few words.” Reconnect served as a reminder
that, yes, we die, but it also highlighted
how little thought had been put into what should happen when we do. I suppose it could have been worse. Right? As one man wrote on Twitter, “At least they’re not deleting the dead.” Now, of course Facebook was quick
to turn off the feature. But when the Wall Street Journal
reached out to them and asked them how this
had even happened in the first place, the director of communication
simply explained that, well, the feature
wasn’t able to detect the human nature of our relationships. Not able to detect our human nature? On a platform designed to let us
express ourselves, to share our lives? How can technology be worthy of our lives,
if it isn’t designed for our entire lives? You know, and the sad part is there is not much you can do
about any of this. There are no features,
there’s no functionality, because by and large, we the technologists,
we haven’t built them yet. Wait – actually, you know,
it’s worse than that. While technologists
have historically ignored the dead, on many platforms,
when they found out you had died, they did delete your account. They didn’t ask anyone or see
if that’s what you would have wanted. They just deleted it! It’s like someone going
into your grandmother’s house after she’s passed away and throwing away all her old journals. Just gone. When MySpace redesigned
their platform in 2013, millions of memorials were destroyed,
without notice, overnight. Today, next of kin can kindly ask LinkedIn
and Twitter to shut down an account, but there’s no option to get an archive
or even memorialize these profiles. And in Snapchat –
I mean, don’t get me started. As far as I can tell,
they don’t even have a policy. So what can you do? Well, you can add
your online accounts to your will. And that’s a good first step. But treating our online accounts
as things to be given away is equivalent of treating them
as bank accounts, property, assets, logistical details
to be handled after we pass away. Our social lives, how we’re remembered, they are worth so much more
than a bank account. As one man I interviewed said to me: “Our online profiles are our identities. How can you give those away? How does that even make sense?” If we’re going to approach this seriously, we’re going to need to design
for more than just death. We’re going to need to design
for our memories. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a talented team
at Facebook to do exactly this. Thankfully, Facebook stopped automatically
deleting accounts back in 2007, but they knew they could do more: for the daughters wanting to change
their parents’ profile photos to something more endearing, to friends trying to share funeral details but unable to navigate
the privacy settings; or for fathers who weren’t friends
with their sons on Facebook, but now want to join and see
the memories being shared. You might think, “Of course
Facebook should help these people.” But it’s complicated. Whether profile photos,
privacy settings or friend requests, how can you know what someone
who’s passed away would have wanted? So what did we do? We approached these spaces
as more than accounts. We approach them as legacies. We took a step back: we considered
how people were using these spaces, what help them connect,
what was causing them pain, and then we designed ways to support them. It’s called Legacy Contact. It’s a feature that lets you select
a close friend or family member, someone you trust, who can care for your profile
after you’ve passed away. It’s in your account settings. You could plug your phone
and choose someone right now. And yes, I realize
that this is new territory, but it all started with one simple step: we acknowledged that people die. I’m inspired when I think about what
our lives and our deaths would look like if all tech companies did the same. How would our technology change? There are so many possibilities. Google Photos could give us scrapbooks
that would never fade. Pinterest, it might be the greatest
lifestyle archive in history. And text messages –
today’s modern love letters. They could allow future generations
to look into their past and see where they have come from. After all, today’s data
are tomorrow’s memories. So we all deserve technology
that is worthy of our lives, our entire lives, but we’re going to need
a broader perspective. As technology becomes
a larger part of who and what we are, it’s time for us all to take stock and consider how technology
can amplify what we care about most and what makes us most human. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “You’re going to die. What will happen to your online life? | Jed R. Brubaker | TEDxMileHigh

  1. When someone die he have to live on social media? Because sharing things and showoff is priority of social media 😀🙏

  2. जितना बडा सपना होगा
    उतनी बडी तकलीफें होगी
    और जितनी बडी
    तकलीफें होगी उतनी बडी
    कामयाबी होगी
    ✍🏼🐾 🐩🐾✍🏼
    कर्म करो तो फल मिलता है,
    आज नहीं तो कल मिलता है।
    जितना गहरा अधिक हो कुँआ,
    उतना मीठा जल मिलता है ।
    जीवन के हर कठिन प्रश्न का,
    *जीवन से ही हल मिलता है।

  3. People, nowadays, are busy in being famous. However, they don't want to make friends they don't know. Social life has come to an end. Social networking websites where socialism is unavailable.

  4. All my password are written down with my will and testaments my lawyers has them. And there is a copy in a bank vault. I will live after I am gone.

  5. It scares me and fascinate me at the same time: I will not have privacy even after my death but, on the other hand, I'll be in a certain way immortal.

  6. ترجم المقاطع رجاء ياااصحاب القناه ترجم اريد نستفاد شجاك

  7. It's arrogant to assume companies like Facebook or Google will last forever. It's quite the opposite, in this digital age. In the early 2000's, I was an early adopter of a photo sharing site (before the term "social media" was coined) and deposited lots of photos there. That site was taken over by another and later scratched and I lost all my photos.

  8. After watching this video, I think I should start posting good stuff on my wall maybe after I die people will remember me with good and smile 🙂

  9. My Ex Husband STOLE my Idenity and Accounts ONLINE SET ME UP with the Police Dept my Reports of crimes were closed by Police 8 X. I was going to Prison for 200 years for Cyber Crimes until I turned in Police Dept to DOJ. NOW the Ex husband little ganster is in FEDERAL PRISON. I still to this Day am being attacked by his Criminal Friends! Unserstand THIS IS REAL AND ANYONE CAN BE SETUP FOR ANYTHING ONLINE

  10. This man is crazy man, sure. No one will live in a psichotic world create by tecnology! We are live creatures on the real world. This digital world is also a part of the lufe, not the lufe itself…

  11. Our online profiles our identites”
    yea to people who fuckin post everything goin on in their life
    You won’t know me by being on my social media because I wouldn’t post nothing personal besides some photos that aren’t about me anyways

    I’d rather not let everyone know what I’m up to

  12. All i care for is for someone to quickly to make a google watch that detects that i have died and it erases my Chrome browser instantly.

  13. Google has an option in their settings that you can turn on to email someone instructions about what to do with your information if you don't access your account for a certain time period.

  14. This is exactly what I was thinking about a couple of years ago I’m glad someone’s doing research and analysis stayed on it

  15. Bollocks. Data doesn't become memories. It stays data that these companies can keep analysing and trading. Your loved ones visiting your page will lead to contextual ads for funeral services and will lawyers.
    Also, you have a lab (whatever that means) and all you've managed to achieve is to get Facebook to add a Legacy Friend feature? Why don't you tell us what your lab really does?

  16. My comments will live on…. getting replies and Upvotes. Angry people replying to my brand of trolling…. and I'm not even around lol.

  17. Some friends has died in the last few years and I knew by facebook, one of them anounced his suicide on facebook. The first one, an old roomate who lived in São Paulo, is still in instagram and I found all the things he experienced in the last years in his videos, as he was still alive. It was a big shock for me. I dont want to live in social media after my death, i want to live inside people who loved me. So I gave up social media. But I still has instagram. I dont want to be a zombie after death.

  18. this raises all those times I've woken up at night, terrified that I could die suddenly and my girlfriend, who lives 3,000 miles away, wouldn't know for days, weeks… In reality, my parents have her contact information as well so they'd probably let her know. She might even be able to come to my funeral. But what about the other online friends? Tumblr accounts that suddenly go quiet. Casual friends who will never know… they'll just think I stopped posting. God it's chilling.

  19. I am so glad that I don't care about whether or not I am remembered or how long or what light I am remembered in. When I die, folks can toss my body in a ditch and make jokes about how glad they are that they don't have to put up with all my talking anymore, basically the same thing goes for the internet. It isn't that I have a grim outlook on my own death, it is just that I don't care how I am remembered as I will eventually be forgotten no matter how I am remembered.

  20. When we die it won’t matter what is on the internet about us . This topic is kind of ridiculous. None of this BS will matter.

  21. Dude, settle down. It’s social media, not real life. You don’t really have 561 (or whatever number) friends who truly care about you.

  22. It is scarry to think that I will not know that myself and my loved ones ever lived. What's therefor to hide while we live!!

  23. This should be motivation for us to ensure that we are doing good things for humanity.
    Your great grandchildren will read your postings and know what kind of person you are right now.

  24. I don't have an online life. Yes, I have a youtube and post on youtube but there is no way to connect it back to my real identity. I recognize the importance of anonymity.

  25. This is great! I'm updating my legacy contact right now! I've thought of creating a video to keep private until I die and have my wife publish on youtube when I die as my final message.

  26. He forgets that there is a lot of tech things we do that ashame us. When we die, our families see that as they make those galleries and memorialize our texts

  27. This is the most American tedx talk I have ever watched.
    My family and close friends don't care about my social media now or when I'm dead, and I want that stuff deleated.

  28. When you're dead you won't complain and you most certainly will not be embarrassed if your privacy or anyting is used.
    Hopefully somebody gets some use out of my f**** wasted existence

  29. I call foul. The speaker said FB stopped deleting profiles of people who died in 2007. My father died in 2011, none of us had his password. The account was deleted due to inactivity.

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