For this meditation, we were asked to imagine an “electronic” ritual and prototype the necessary systems to perform the ritual.
For this ritual, I’m interested in electronic death rituals. We have many rituals related to death of the physical body. For example – every 8 years, when a NYS drivers license expires, every single person has to go to the DMV for renewal. In this renewal process, they ask: If you die, what would you like to happen to your organs? A user can then choose if they would like to donate their physical body, or not.
Why is it that this question never comes up when it comes to the after-life donation of our digital bodies?
In this meditation, I will be looking at the donation process of our digital bodies on Facebook.
Facebook has many rituals that celebrate life- friendship anniversaries, birthday notifications, & personal year in review. These are repeated events that happen on a regular basis & pop up on one’s news feed.
However, the process of ritualized facebook death never comes up. Despite this, a phenomenon known as the facebook graveyard has been happened.
By 2012, just eight years after the platform was launched, 30 million users with Facebook accounts had died. That number has only gone up since. Some estimates claim more than 8,000 users die each day.
For this ritual, I propose that with every Year in Review, Facebook prompts a notification:
Hey – Thanks for being on Facebook for X number of years! Are you ready to consider the memorialization of your account? Y/N .
Let’s assume yes. When it comes to the donation of our digital Facebook body, we have three options:
- Choose a Legacy Contact
- Deactivate my account
- Delete my Account
Out of these three options, I choose to let my digital body exist in the care of a friend. Here is the following message that comes up when you choose a legacy contact:
Overall, this process was very introspective. I’m happy that I have a legacy contact now, but it also reminds me of my own mortality. It reminds me of the organ donation feeling at the DMV every few years. I have chosen to donate my physical body after death so that others can celebrate life for me. Likewise, I have also now chosen to donate my digital body after death.
It would be nice if Facebook gave me a sticker, but nothing of the sort happened. Maybe in few years, they’ll consider actually ritualizing this.