email from the dead

So there’s a big debate about the state of email accounts belonging to people who die and who has the right to access them. If you die, should your parents/family/wife get to access your account and read your email? On the pro side, I’m sure your family would want to be able to contact people and let them know. I’ve got lots of friends that I keep in touch with on a strictly-email basis. I remember when I was in college, thinking would my email friends every know what happened to me if I died. Probably not. But who cares, it’s just over email.
Along those lines, a jackass I know recently posted on his own website that he had died. There was his name, a picture and his dates of birth and death along with the words “rest in peace”. It turns out it was a big hoax. Apparently it was his attempt to ‘re-invent his persona’ or some nonsense like that. The thing that occurred to me was, if I was this guy’s friend and just happened to chance upon his web site and he hadn’t had the chance to tell me what it was all about, I might be pretty distraught. As it was, it was more of a curiosity than anything else.
The state of life and death is not as well-defined online as it is in the real world. When my grandmother died, I made a website for her family and friends where we could share pictures and stories about her. When I made the email account for people to email their memories to me, I made it in her name. The thing I didn’t realize is that when I wrote these people back, they would go to their email boxes and see the name of my dead grandmother staring back at them. I think the shock was probably lessened some by the fact that my grandmother didn’t have email when she was alive, but who knows what kind of access they have up in heaven.
In addition to this, if you’re on friendster, you may have a dead person or two in your friend list. I remember there was a story about a girl who died in my town and I went and found her blog. It was just sitting there, the last entry dated a few days before her car accident. It was pretty eerie to read some of her last, inane thoughts which she penned, completely oblivious to her impending doom.
So what to do? How to solve this moral dilemma? Well apparently, it’s already decided. All you really need to do is get the courts involved and you can have your access, provided you can show that you’re a parent or loved one. So much for privacy. My advice? Send yourself fake emails so that if you die tragically and your mom and dad go sniffing through your personal stuff, they’ll be horrified to learn that you were leading a secret gay life or you were aiding terrorists or something. Be creative! The possibilities are endless. Just as long as you make them feel bad. After all, they deserve it for being nosy.

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