And they lived virtually ever after
Aditi Maithreya |
Imagine getting a what’s up message or a fb greeting after a person in long dead.
There’s always some thing unsaid when death comes. But the digital world is slowly changing the perspective of death by piggybacking on the philosophical belief that `one never really dies but just leaves.’ Whether it is an emotional message for your children or a replica of your thoughts, some websites, apps and `thought-copiers’ have made it possible for you to leave behind a part of your `self’ after you die, assuring you a `sense of digital immortality.’
Imagine receiving an emotional message on your wedding day from your grandmother, who died 15 years ago. HDFC Life, for instance, recently launched ‘Memories for Life’, which allows you to either record a short video or make a scrapbook of photographs. After completion, the user can share the content immediately or in future.
Other applications like Afternote, Rememberme and SafeBeyond are helping people ease the path to closure through messages for their loved ones, to be viewed only after their death. “It gives you a chance to be part of your loved ones’ lives forever through digital platforms. It is important as you don’t know if you’ll be there for the big moments of their life,” says Moran Zur, founder & CEO, SafeBeyond.
Established last year, the platform also provides users the opportunity to leave messages tailored for occasions like birthdays and weddings. They could be location-specific notes.
Users are required to assign a trustee(s) who will inform the site of their demise. Once notified, the site will send messages like e-mail passwords, stored for the digital heirs — on the mentioned dates. The idea developed when Zur lost his father to cancer and missed him at his wedding. But work began after his wife was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012. “The concept is well-received in India which embraces strong family bonds,” says Zur, whose site receives the second biggest traffic from the country , with more than 1,500 users.
Acting as your ’emotional life insurance’, psychologists say these messages can assist in the grieving process. “It is a good way for the family to cope with loss. In grief resolution therapy, we advise patients to see old pictures of the deceased as it is a cathartic process,” says Dr Keerthi Pai, clinical psychologist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.
Apart from its emotional purpose, these platforms act as safety vaults for digital assets like data on social media networks, and scanned documents. It can also be used to advice future company heirs. “To me, it’s like a digital capsule with my data and memories, which my loved ones can access without scrambling for it,” says Tekin Roads managing partner Lathika Pai, a Bengaluru-based user of SafeBeyond.
But these tools are a double-edged sword. While security of messages is promised through encryption, legal issues come into the picture. “If the data saved on a cloud is considered a property, it is advisable for users to state this in their will to ensure it doesn’t fall into unscrupulous hands,” says Avinash Wadwani a lawyer at Madras high court. ” Also, the Indian Succession Act hasn’t been amended since 1925 and hence, doesn’t the law doesn’t recognize digitalization of legacies,” says Wadwani. “But it can be amended to incorporate this possibility.”