Friday, May 18, 2007

Digital Ghosts

A dear friend who was my classmate during secondary school passed away recently.

He was an avid blogger who kept 5 blogs going at the same time. His sudden passing was a shock to all his friends, myself included. He had a shoutout box, and friends from all over left condolence messages on it.

It was quite a surreal feeling every time I visit his blog again. I was half expecting a new post to pop up, saying that it was all a mistake and he's still alive and well. But of course, it just stayed static, a snapshot in time of his life.

I've always wondered what happens to the stuff created online whenever someone passes away. The IM id's, the email accounts, the blogs, the photo archives. They are all remnants of a life, capturing all the laughter, happiness, sadness, fears, hopes of that person.

What makes me sad is that it will all never be recovered. Without a password, friends and relatives cannot access the data, and after a period of inactivity the companies that own the accounts will delete them.

Even the next of kin cannot request for access - I read a heart-rending story a few years back of an American soldier's family futile attempt to get Yahoo to let them access his email account after he was killed in Iraq.

That's the sad thing about our world today - so much of the stuff people care about are stored online, and when they pass on, those stuff are gone forever. No faded photos, no folded letters, just a bunch of bits that gets wiped out when the time is up.

Rest in peace, Frankie, you will always remain in our hearts.

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