Just before she died of Cystic Fibrosis, 25 year-old Eva made a video saying goodbye to all the friends and family who had loved and supporter her. It’s as difficult to watch as you’d imagine. So are the thousands of videos just like it. And those are from people we don’t even know.
When someone we know dies, more and more often they’ve left for us some enduring message on the web (a goodbye, a space for memories, an album). Sometimes, as in the case of the inspiring Jennifer Goodman Linn, their legacy endures — grows, even — as friends, family and supporters carry on their message.
For most people who die, their web presence remains disturbingly still, no life behind the pages, the social graph, the empty feeds. The comments spike with loving memories, then fade. Months pass and no one updates a thing. No one takes anything down for fear of burying them deeper. Finally, the web domain expires, Facebook deactivates the account, Twitter shuts the handle. They fade, harder to summon in the results of a search.
That fade is slow, and it’s painful. For example, a popular lecturer and ethics professor died a few months ago, yet you can still go to his site and book him for a speaking engagement.
Of course, hip-hop artists (and their labels and managers) figured all this out long ago. Remember when PBS found Tupac and Biggie alive and well in New Zealand?
So did Nostradamus, whose voice lives on even today in blogs recalling his “vision” premonition of the Penn State atrocities:
84 Paterno will hear the cry from Sicily, all the preparations in the Gulf of Trieste; it will be heard as far as Sicily flee oh, flee, so may sails, the dreaded pestilence !
I wouldn’t be thinking about any of this had I not come across this video, which I suppose is an advertisement for life insurance? Watch, and when you’re done laughing at the music, ask yourself, what will become of you…
Also, here’s Adam Ostrow’s TED talk on the subject.