Honoring his memory in the digital age

The possibilities of social networks are so extensive that they help you get back to life when it hits you hard. The sudden death of her husband left Giuliana devastated and alone with two young daughters. Overcoming one day after another tested her resistance and her imagination until she discovered through digital platforms a multiplier means of communication to navigate through grief. She is the main character of the book ‘Life was that’ by the writer Carmen Amoraga (2014 Nadal Prize) and deals with death in digital times, new ways of communicating, as well as new spaces for mourning.

There is no doubt of the importance to the grieving process in our connected lives. «When our grandmothers lost a family member, they dressed in black, mourning; Now the platforms cover that need to socially express the loss,” says Montserrat Lacalle Sisteré, collaborating professor of Psychology and Educational Sciences Studies at the Open University of Catalonia. Platforms can be an effective support tool in this process, and one of the reasons is that through them we have been able to recover the manifestation of mourning as a social experience.

«There are identities that are psychologically constructed through the gaze of others: how I feel when I expose myself socially. “Facebook or Twitter can do a good job in that area,” she explains.

Hugs and virtual support

One of the longings in loss is to talk to your loved one again. New technologies are achieving this in a ‘virtual’ way, thanks to artificial intelligence. Korean television broadcast the virtual reality reunion of grieving mother Jang Ji-sung with her late daughter Nayeon. The so-called griefbots (literally, grieving robots) are chatbots created from the digital footprint that the loved one leaves behind: a whole legacy of social media posts, videos, photos, emails and text messages that feed an artificial neural network. They allow you to imitate the style and way of thinking of the deceased person. This way, her loved ones can continue talking to her post-mortem. It fulfills a positive psychological function in the grieving process, although there are authors who warn of ethical risks in robot-human interaction.

On the Internet, dying is not a problem. Accounts remain and are not closed due to inactivity as is the case with emails. Sometimes the profile remains as the person left it. Facebook or Twitter have special protocols to follow if necessary.

The first offers the option of having a legacy contact to whom all information can be transferred once the user’s death is notified. Additionally, he is the person who will manage our account if it becomes an online obituary. The feature is activated when family members notify that the user has died. Users can decide in advance what they want to happen to their accounts when they die, whether to delete them or keep them as a keepsake.

The company created a specific section to honor the deceased relative or friend, more control actions for posthumous administrators and the use of artificial intelligence to avoid unpleasant situations such as receiving a notification for the birthday of a deceased person or invitations to events.

Laws are also beginning to recognize how important our digital existence is for our loved ones after we die. There are start-ups that allow people to create ‘a digital will’ that only releases access to social media accounts and digital assets to a designated executor. Some funeral homes offer the service of recovering the digital legacy of the deceased.

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