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20 July 2017

How social media will help us live forever

Don’t worry, when you die, you’ll still be able to update Facebook.

IF your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.

Suggesting you can still communicate through social media once you’re dead sounds like an episode of futuristic series Black Mirror, but living forever through our Facebook pages could happen within the decade.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne have studied how social media and death relate to each other and discovered the concept of social immortality.

Currently Google and Facebook use an algorithm to create a profile of us, to target us with certain marketing campaigns that match up with our interests.

This same algorithm could work with other softwares to generate posts from our profiles after we die, allowing us to update our statuses and participate in online conversation.

It’s a scary thought, but a number of sites have been launched dedicated to maintaining your social presence once you die.

“We all pass away sooner or later. We only leave behind a few photos, maybe some home videos, or in rare situations, a diary or autobiography,” it says on website EterniMe.

“But eventually, we are all forgotten.”

People can sign up to the website and it collects your thoughts, stories and memories.

Sites like Facebook could post on your behalf once you die.

Sites like Facebook could post on your behalf once you die.Source:Supplied

Emailfromdeath.com is another website people sign up to so they can write emails to be sent out after they die.

“You store your emails and the website prompts you to respond with a password. If you fail to respond a number of times it assumes you’re dead and sends out the emails you’ve prepared to the recipients you nominated,” University of Melbourne History and Philosophy Science Associate Professor Michael Arnold told news.com.au.

“It can send emails to relatives or data to business partners or emotional content.”

Professor Arnold said another website, DeadSocial, also allowed people to manage their social media from beyond the grave.

“It takes it a step further,” he said.

“It’s not simply emails but also social media posts on anything like Twitter, Facebook or blogs.

“You can nominate when you have a social presence, whether that be immediately after your death or later on. You might prepare media to be sent out on the first anniversary of your death or on the wedding of your young child, 10, 15 years down the track.”

Not only can you leave posts for websites to publish, but social media will be able to generate its own content. Looking at your social media activity, your sense of humour and language, algorithms could create a social media post so you can continue to participate in discussions online. More advanced technology could even mimic your voice and make phone calls on your behalf and virtual reality could generate images of you.

Twitter could generate tweets once you’re dead by using past social media activity.

Twitter could generate tweets once you’re dead by using past social media activity.Source:istock

Professor Arnold said there could be issues with social immortality.

“There’s the problem of trolling from beyond the grave and bullying. How do we control that? Services encrypt everything and they can’t determine if it’s malicious,” he said.

“On a more philosophical level, it makes you question how important our body is to our social life. Many younger people in particular will know a great deal of their social life is online and it is not uncommon for people to be in front of a screen for 16 hours a day.

“People interact and form communities. Given that’s the case and given we have all kinds of social relations entirely online, sometimes we never meet face-to-face with people we communicate with regularly, the question arises, is it important for a body to be there, given it’s not part of our social lives?”

Professor Arnold said people would want to use this type of technology to be remembered and leave a legacy, but he believes people should carefully consider and assess what the technology means.

“Don’t blindly fall into it, be prepared to assess it, reject it, or embrace it and do so in a thoughtful and knowing way rather than being sucked in,” he said.

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