Death in the Age of the Internet

Photo by Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about death. More specifically, I’m going to talk about how death has changed — how death influenced the way we see online, and how online has influenced the way we see death.  

First, I want to talk about real life death on the internet. Facebook was perhaps the pioneer for this — as users began to grow old and die, the site pursued a “memorialization” feature that allowed profiles to be curated after death. It is a strange sort of realization: when social media owners die, where do the profiles go?

There is something perhaps eerie about watching old videos, or reading old blog posts, and realizing that the person who made them is dead. In another way, it’s a boon to all of us. Better than ever before our memories now stay with the world long after our deaths, stitched together in the weave of the internet. 

But perhaps more interesting is this new form of “internet death”, also known as “cancellation”. Social suicide had always existed in one form or another, and is an interesting concept in its own right. However, I plan on discussing the idea itself further in a later post — what I wanted to focus on now is scale.

Say you got “cancelled” in a time pre-Internet. In such a case, you can just go to the town over, and as long as no one there recognizes you you’ll be just fine. Post-Internet, however, things aren’t quite as simple. When the effect is across a universal scale, the damage becomes a lot more severe. It also means false-positives are a lot more deadly. 

Death on the internet is an ever evolving concept. Memorialization services and archives will likely be expanded. “Cancellation” will likely become regulated in some form. However, at this point things are still in the wild west. That can be scary, but it can also be hopeful. 

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