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[00:00:01] Voiceover: This is an ABC podcast.
[00:00:09] Grimmy: Oh no. Oh, look at those unlikely animal friends. How are they going to have a life together? Opinions.
[00:00:19] Jan Fran: Hey Grimmy. Grim Reaper.
[00:00:22] Grimmy: Just one second. I’m just commenting on this Reddit sub thread and I’m going to swipe right.
[00:00:29] Jan Fran: Oh get off the dating apps. It’s creepy. You’re dead.
[00:00:33] Grimmy: Hey, I’m a turn on. And plus, I’m a skeleton. I literally can’t send a dick pic, but I am one large boner.
[00:00:39] Jan Fran: Well, that’s something I guess.
[00:00:42] Grimmy: And let’s be honest, there are heaps of dead people on social media. Actually, Oxford researchers reckon that by 2070, there will be more dearly departed people on Facebook than living users.
[00:00:51] Jan Fran: Really?
[00:00:52] Grimmy: Not news to me. I see everything including your DM’s.
[00:00:57] Jan Fran: Oh, right. You know that hair removal stuff wasn’t, I wouldn’t, I don’t do that. I wouldn’t do that.
[00:01:01] Grimmy: Okay. Well I was joking, but now I’m definitely going to look into your DM’s. On another note, do you think I should change my Twitter bio?
[00:01:08] Jan Fran: Let’s see.. “The real Grim Reaper here to slay you.” Yeah, you got to re-brand.
[00:01:14] Grimmy: What about something like, “I can do a death drop?”
[00:01:16] Jan Fran: Yeah, that’s cute. I feel like that’s cute for you.
It’s almost like we live two lives – online and IRL. And when you die in real life, you’re, well you’re dead. But online, things are not as clear-cut. What happens when someone close to you dies, but their online life continues to send you prompts and notifications? Can you take control of your digital life? Yes, the answer is yes. I’m Jan Fran. This is The Pineapple Project and we are going to take you through the good, the bad and the extremely awkward scenarios that the dearly departed can unwittingly find themselves in online. Yes, your future dead self will thank me for this. But first, a lesson on the internet.
The internet was first developed as an official tool of military communications. But we’ve used it ever since as a way of sending people pictures of their genitals. And you know the other stuff.
Is there anything online that you wouldn’t want somebody to find?
[00:02:25] Random Voice 1: No. Different browser history but other than that nothing in particular just don’t type and peek.
[00:02:33] Random Voice2: There is some pretty embarrassing songs from Spotify. But..
[00:02:37] Jan Fran: Is that really the worst? Have you sent any dick pics to anyone?
[00:02:41] Random Voice2: Never sent a dick pic to anyone in my life. Not even my wife.
[00:02:44] Jan Fran: Oh, good on you. You are a gentleman, sir.
[00:02:47] Random Voice2: My social media is dick-free.
[00:02:50] Random Voice3: I mean, I’ve definitely got like creative writing attempts that I would be deeply embarrassed for people to read.
[00:02:57] Jan Fran: In terms of your social media accounts or your online footprint. Have you thought of what happens to your life online after you died?
[00:03:04] Random Voice4: I haven’t. I know that it can get locked down and no one can access it often after someone’s died. I’m happy to let my social media become open to the world.
[00:03:19] Jan Fran: So nothing. You have done nothing. Bangs head on desk. We’re on the interwebs all the time and it’s not like dying is a new thing. So why don’t we have a system to deal with it yet? It’s woven into the very fabric of our lives, people.
[00:03:36] Claire Reilly: We are so happy to post everything about what we do online. We, we have entire relationships that only exist online. I know my husband games with people that he only hangs out with online. I’ve met people via Twitter hashtags so, so much of our lives are online. We carry our phones around and post everything. We might say that a photograph taken at 2 a.m. at a party doesn’t, you know, really count but actually these are the kind of sign posts of our lives.
[00:04:02] Jan Fran: That there is tech journalist Claire Reilly and she has rightly pointed out that between Twitter, Tumblr, Tinder, Grindr, Etsy, ASOS, Facie, Insty, Bumble, Hinge, binge, cringe. Okay, now I’m just making words up. The point is we spend a lot of time online.
[00:04:20] Claire Reilly: And yet soon as we die, that, that kind of, those digital breadcrumbs, I guess the trails that we leave behind us, they don’t disappear. They kind of exist in perpetuity until the internet melts down.
[00:04:33] Jan Fran: Can’t wait for that. In the meantime, those digital breadcrumbs, they can kind of come together and form a sandwich. So why should we care about what happens to the sandwich when we’re gone?
[00:04:49] Claire Reilly: I think it’s very easy, especially in the modern era, you know, millennials are on the internet all the time. It’s very easy to dismiss the digital as something recent or something frivolous. But let’s look at the personal factors. It’s all your photos. It’s videos. It’s personal memories that you have shared. It’s your life. Some people don’t post much online, but some people share a lot of their lives and it’s one element of you in the same way that you might have a work life that’s different to your family or friend life. I think there’s a lot of things at play. I mean, I thought I kind of had my stuff together with this right. I’ve got family contacts setup for my Facebook account. I have like secondary emergency contacts. If for some reason I lose access to my Google accounts, then you know, I’ve got emergency not just my phone number. My husband’s phone number. I’ve sort of done that stuff but then I’ve been thinking about this before coming in to chat to your site. I haven’t set up a kind of a contact if my account becomes inactive for Google which is something you can do. And that’s probably the best way if you’re on Google to kind of set that up, it’s someone gets a message after you’ve been inactive for a certain amount of time and maybe if you give them access they can say go, you know, you’ve got access to go and download their Google photos or all of those sweet videos they uploaded to YouTube if you want all of their, you know, TikTok compilations.
[00:06:12] Jan Fran: Man, I’m just thinking about my Google Drive right now.
[00:06:14] Claire Reilly: It’s a mess and I don’t even want to deal with it. Like your Estate Management is going to be a nightmare.
[00:06:20] Jan Fran: So what’s the hot tip? What do we do?
[00:06:23] Claire Reilly: Okay, so I think about like one of the most important accounts for you. So maybe it’s all my personal information is stored on Google Drive and I’ve got everything in there. That’s really I guess like stuff I want to keep secure for privacy reasons or you know, what Facebook is where I’ve kept all my photos. I put everything into the kind of that basket. Workout, I guess, a couple of key accounts that are really important for you. You can just search how to memorialize your account or set up a contact if you do die.
[00:06:53] Jan Fran: Let’s take Facebook as an example. Two things can happen. If and when Facebook finds out you’re dead. One, your account can be memorialized which is a limited page that says you’ve died. Or two, your account can be deleted. But what magical internet wizard has the power to do all of this? It’s you! You’re the internet wizard. If you think you want your Facebook profile to be permanently deleted, you can just go into settings and request that this happens after you’ve died. Just tick the box. Or you can select what’s called a legacy contact. Now a legacy contact is like your next of kin for the internet. They can memorialize your page or request that it gets deleted by the Facebook powers that be. Go and do it now. Trust me. It’ll save your fam quite a lot of strife. Because here’s something you need to know, if you don’t tick either of those options, it can be quite difficult for your family to remove your Facebook page after you’ve passed. Just ask Yannick.
[00:08:03] Yannick: Ben was funny, laid back and just easygoing. He was a pilot.
[00:08:11] Jan Fran: Ben was Yannick’s brother. He flew planes in Papua New Guinea.
[00:08:15] Yannick: They tended to fly to just more remote areas to deliver food.
[00:08:20] Jan Fran: And in April 2016–
[00:08:21] Yannick: My father is living in Cannes and he was driving around and had heard something on the radio about a crash initially that had happened in Papua New Guinea and that evening. We got a phone call and it was my father’s partner. She rung to say that Ben had died and then I guess we’re just sort of at the time I was a bit in shock.
[00:08:50] Jan Fran: Like lots of people, Ben still had an active Facebook account. For Yannick, the automatic act of getting online and opening Facebook suddenly became this emotional roller coaster.
[00:09:02] Yannick: I don’t know. It’s just, it’s also hard because with social media, especially Facebook, you know, they pop up these reminders and you know, I was getting these reminders when my brother died and then you know, they pop up this photo and go. Oh you posted this photo like and it was one of my brother with my daughter. Do you want to repost it today, you know? No, it’s been a year and like it just I don’t know, it does, I just didn’t, I wasn’t enjoying being on there anymore. It took probably about two weeks for me to get a hold of Facebook to shut down my brother’s page which we were unable to do. I contacted Facebook online and then I had to provide a death certificate and a notice which I sent a link from the Sydney Morning Herald. If you send a death notice in, it gets turned into a remembrance page, but to close it down is actually quite difficult.
[00:10:03] Jan Fran: So the page is still up and running.
[00:10:05] Yannick: Yes.
[00:10:06] Jan Fran: And what, how do you reflect on that whole situation? What do you make of it all?
[00:10:10] Yannick: Well, I don’t have Facebook anymore. I just closed mine down.
[00:10:13] Jan Fran: Can I ask why?
[00:10:14] Yannick: Yeah, I guess in a way it made me realize that you’re putting these things out there and that, yeah, I just, I just figured that the people I’m friends with I see, or I’m in touch with and I just didn’t see the need for it anymore. Yeah.
[00:10:34] Jan Fran: Turns out, trying to prove that someone wanted their page deleted after they’ve died, is actually really hard. Now, there is an in-between option, the memorialized page and that seems easier, right? Now, here’s Claire Reilly.
[00:10:49] Claire Reilly: Essentially, it’ll say, “Remembering Jan Fran” and people can post on your wall, put little remembrances up. If you’ve elected for someone to kind of be the controller of that, maybe a family member, they can kind of manage the page. If you don’t elect someone, it can just kind of stay online. So Facebook needs to know you’re dead.
[00:11:10] Jan Fran: Yeah. Anyone can notify Facebook that you’ve died or your legacy contact can do it.
[00:11:16] Claire Reilly: I think the thing to remember with all of these things is it’s kind of someone can have control or access parts of it, but they can’t use it in the same way that you used it when you were living. So Google, Twitter, Facebook, they’re never going to give away your login and your password because security and privacy is paramount. So that’s kind of the difference between you being alive and controlling your account and then someone who’s kind of looking after your account for you.
[00:11:42] Jan Fran: We got in touch with Facebook and they told us that they’ve just updated what legacy contacts can do in terms of tagging. Basically, they can moderate posts or photos that get tagged with the deceased. Facebook said:
[00:11:56] Facebook Rep: This helps them manage content that might be hard for friends and family to see if they’re not ready.
[00:12:01] Jan Fran: Oh and if you’re terrified about your legacy contact getting a little bit more than what they’ve bargained for, rest assured your legacy contact can’t see your DM’s. They can only remotely manage what’s on your wall. Change your display pic and deal with friend requests. Now folks, let it be said no two people are the same. Some people take comfort in seeing memorialized accounts from their loved ones online.
[00:12:31] Jill: We use it quite a bit. People post on his wall on his birthday and Christmas and what have you. I’d tag him in posts regarding the kids or anything that I think he would find amusing. And we use it to sort of look back on photos and he pops up in my memories quite a bit. Either he’s hijacked my Facebook page at whatever, whatever point a couple of years ago or there’s a picture of him that that I can show the boys. And so yeah, I just, we just leave it.
[00:13:11] Jan Fran: That’s Jill. She’s talking about her ex-husband Dave who died in 2014. They have two kids together.
[00:13:18] Jill: And they were six and eight when he passed away so they got very limited time with him and I feel because it’s such a technological age that at some point they’re going to want to have access to that and sort of have a glimpse into how he lived his online life.
[00:13:43] Jan Fran: Do you see it as a bit of a time capsule.
[00:13:45] Jill: Yeah, so that’s a really good word for it. Because when the time comes that the boys have got their own Facebook, they can go on there and read all the posts that he put up about them, all the photos that he posted about them and sort of get a snapshot into his, I mean, it’s just these online life but a snapshot into his life.
[00:14:13] Jan Fran: Yeah, that’s quite lovely. Do you feel in some ways that he’s still alive in some way?
[00:14:20] Jill: Yes.
[00:14:26] Jan Fran: Man, the internet is massive. I’m looking at it right now. Each social media platform has its own approach to this stuff. Like Twitter can’t be memorialized. Thank Christ. You’ll need to login to deactivate the account. Instagram can be memorialized but you’ll need to send them a proof of death. And that’s not to mention matters of the heart. Let’s talk love or Tinder, Bumble, Grindr. What happens to your hypothetical matches if you die? Claire?
[00:15:03] Claire Reilly: Yes. So this is super fascinating because the big dating apps don’t really have public guidelines about what to do if a user dies. So example, Bumble, if you haven’t been active on Bumble for 30 days, then your profile is deactivated. But if you imagine someone could die within 30 days and then it’s quite possible that someone else could kind of swipe on their profile and be swiping on someone who’s no longer living. So Tinder and Bumble have both said that you can email their support teams and request an account be closed after someone’s died. But I feel like that’s kind of the last thing you’d be thinking about when someone’s passed away and it’s probably a good chance that you don’t actually know if it’s say your daughter or your son. You wouldn’t necessarily know all the dating apps that they’re using. So yeah, it’s it could be possible to swipe right or kind of like a dead person on a dating app and that would be super awkward.
[00:16:00] Jan Fran: Awkward is accidentally saying “Good, thanks” when someone says “Hello.” That’s just plain F dumb. Look, everyone’s still figuring out how this stuff works. And frankly, it changes all the time. So, how do you whittle it down to make sure that your social media is not literally ghosting someone? One, start by figuring out where you spend most of your time online. Ask yourself, would you want all your profiles totally deleted or would you want some to be memorialized so that other people can visit them. Two, if you want to nominate someone to manage your accounts after you die, check out your settings. And three, think about getting a password manager. This is a place to store and record essential account logins and notes for your nominated people after you’ve died. Trust me. This is going to make their life that much easier. I’m Jan Fran. This is The Pineapple Project and together we’re helping you die… good. We’re helping you die good as in die better or something. Next time on The Pineapple Project, we spend a lot of time at work, but when someone dies in the workplace, we kind of get a bit weird about it. Especially when we need to tell Dave from HR. So what should you say and shouldn’t you say to a colleague when someone has died?
[00:17:32] Michelle Knox (from next episode): We’ve all said things we regret. If you start a sentence with “At least..,” stop. Stop, just stop talking.
[00:17:40] Jan Fran: Oh boy. Plus, what rights do you have when it comes to taking time off from work? That’s next on The Pineapple Project. The Pineapple Project is mixed by sound engineers Angie Grant and Krissy Miltiadou. It is produced by Karla Arnall and Clare O’Halloran. The role of Grimmy, The Grim Reaper, is played by Rhys Nicholson. The host, oh my god, that’s me, Jan Fran. The podcast’s executive producer is Rachel Fountain. Kellie Riordan is the manager of ABC Audio Studios. Hi, if you like this podcast and you’re keen to hear a real life story where an adorable kiwi family chase down a con artist who they think has swindled them, you should totally hunt down Snowball and binge on that.
[00:18:36] Ollie Wards (from Snowball): My brother married an American con artist.
[00:18:39] Greg Wards (from Snowball): You marry someone, you feel like you really know them.
[00:18:41] Ollie Wards (from Snowball): But he really didn’t. By the end, my folks were broke and homeless. I’ve been on her trail and it’s taken me all over the world.
[00:18:48] Voice (from Snowaball): She got the wrong side of the local Mafia.
[00:18:50] Voice 2 (from Snowball): She witnessed murder.
[00:18:52] Ollie Wards (from Snowball): I’m Ollie Wards. Join me for Snowball. The latest installment of the ABC’s True Crime podcast Unravel.
[00:18:59] Jan Fran: That is Snowball the fourth season of the ABC’s Unravel podcast. Search for it where ever you’re listening to this episode of The Pineapple Project or hunt it down in apps like Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or ABC Listen. Bye.
End of transcription. Total audio minute: [19 min 16 sec]
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