Thursday 26 April 2018

Angela Scanlon: An online legacy

When we die, should our social media accounts live on?

Angela Scanlon
Angela Scanlon
Angela Scanlon's puppy Sandy
Pic by Angela Scanlon
Pic by Angela Scanlon

Angela Scanlon

On a plane recently I was sitting behind a very odd man. A very tall, very odd man. He was loud and a bit shouty. Side stares, intense glares, wild-eyed manic vibes… In a word, creepy.

He changed seats multiple times before we took off, went to the toilet with little packages multiple times before we took off, laughed to himself in the seat, started slapping his head and rubbing his face, waving his arms and praying loudly. In isolation maybe none of these things would have made me feel uneasy but we've been conditioned to be suspicious, especially on planes.

As we took off, I started to freak out inwardly. What if this time this actually was some crazy with designs on killing us all? (It should be said at this point that it had been a long day in a long week, and I was a tad delirious.)

My immediate thought on imagining death wasn't anything wonderfully profound - nothing deep, nothing you could write on a headstone. All I could think about was the fact that I hadn't really texted anyone that day. Surely that would mean that there would be fewer people at my funeral.

What was my last electronic interaction? Aside from one 'I love you' pre take-off, there was a Whatsapp picture of my 10-month-old niece on a playdate, a group conversation around a boozy brunch and an exchange about packing wellies for a weekend away, as well as a list of crap I needed to be reminded of on the other side. This would be my legacy.

My final Instagram post was some fabulous flowery quote by James Joyce about travelling to broaden the mind. Obviously I wouldn't have posted it if I knew I was about to die in a plane at the hands of some wide-eyed laughing giant.

My Facebook included a picture of a pack of popcorn-flavoured Tic Tacs I picked up that day. Although they were undeniably delicious, I would be mortified if that was the image people saw when they went to write eulogies on my wall. Surely those close to me would know the Tic Tac thing would really upset me but what could they do? They don't know my password; I don't know my password! (I can only check Facebook from one device - the laptop I signed in with two years ago when I checked the box that said 'remember password'. I've never looked back until now.)

On the plane, I was raging. Raging I didn't leave a contingency, a list of passwords and instructions so that someone could shut my social media accounts down. But would I want that either? Giving someone the power to erase my existence, to delete what has become a visual record of my life. Giving them the power to use a selfie on my mass card…

Dress up

Fancy dress is the best. There is no situation, no party, no interaction made worse by the addition of a candy-coloured wig, yet we don't do it often enough. But you don't have to go the whole hog. You can unleash your inner child this summer wearing frog ears for an animal-themed breakfast or heading to the pub in rollerskates.

Pineapple express

Apart from flamingos, pineapples are my favourite motif. They're up there with cacti and palm trees as my most used emojis. Pineapples, someone informed me recently, are the "international fruit symbol of hospitality". Sorry? The WHAT? I laughed in his face until he pressured me into Googling 'international fruit symbol of hospitality', and lo and behold there was my favourite fruit. The custom began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed among the Caribbean islands and returned to the colonies bearing their cargo of fruits, spices and rum. There you have it, now.


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