Web immortality: the social media sites that keep you alive in the digital world

Lawrence Darani is dying. Two years ago doctors told him his lung condition was incurable and gave him only two years to live. But the day I meet him, he’s completely at ease, drinking tea, sitting back in the armchair of his bright south London living room, his black cat curled in his lap. He’s perfectly calm, because he’s going to be immortal.

Like thousands of people, Darani has made plans to be kept alive in the digital world after he leaves the real one. He’s signed up to DeadSocial, a free online service that lets people live on through their social media accounts. Users can upload an unlimited number of photos, video, audio and text messages which will be sent out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the DeadSocial website after their death. They can schedule the messages to be posted at any time, up to 999 years into the future. With this kind of service, Darani could wish his descendants all the best on the turn of the next millennium.

We meet shortly after he has recorded the first video to be sent out after his executor – his wife, Lucy – informs DeadSocial that he’s passed away. “As I was looking at the camera, I thought, gosh, I’m not only talking to my kids, I’m talking to my grandkids, and all my generations for years to come. It’s always going to be out there, in the cloud. There’s something comforting about that.” His sky-blue eyes gaze out from behind heavy-rimmed glasses, out of the window, towards the Thames, where generations of his family once worked on the docks. “Through DeadSocial, you can make sure the essence of who you are remains on the internet. It cheats death.”

The uploaded version of Darani is the curated, carefully managed version of himself that he wants to give eternal life. In the flesh, he has an air of studied casualness – his shirt collar is unbuttoned, his sleeves are rolled up and there is several days’ worth of stubble on his cheeks – but his luminous white moustache has been assiduously waxed into two sharp curls.

A community worker and former counselling teacher, he loves to read philosophy, and has been thinking about how his descendants will remember him since before his diagnosis, aware that memories are as ephemeral as bodies, and subject to the distortions of whoever is doing the remembering.

“We all want to leave some legacy, so in future someone will say, ‘That was a decent man’,” he says. “I saw on Who Do You Think You Are, these celebrities were fascinated by looking at their relatives from 100, 150 years ago. All they had was a photograph of the person – they could only guess what type of character they had. They went on a journey to discover something good in their forefathers and mothers, in some sort of hope that they’ve still got those genes. So I thought, wow, with the technology now, you could actually do this properly for yourself.”

Full article available at The Guardian

Credit: illustration by Kyle Bean for the Guardian

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