Director: Wayne Madden
Estimated Running Time: 90 Minutes
“It is estimated that by 2015 over 50 Million Users with Facebook Accounts worldwide will have passed away”
What is the fastest growing group on Facebook?
One of the most surprising phenomena of recent times has been the encroaching of mortality upon Social Media Networks like Facebook and Twitter. In 2010 alone it was estimated that over 1 Million Americans (with Facebook accounts) passed away. Although not perhaps “the norm” in our society yet, it is becoming increasingly common to leave digital estates in a person’s will, giving explicit instructions how to deal with their digital possessions as well as their physical ones. However, beyond a few anecdotes about an awkward experience or two, is this an occasional curiosity or looming tidal wave that social media just doesn’t know yet know how to deal with?
The objective of this documentary is to examine how death is perceived in the digital world. In a world where mobile phones and social media accounts are normality, what happens when a person dies and their “virtual footprint” is left untouched? How does it affect the grieving process when someone is still being tagged on Facebook, posting in Twitter or even sending text messages? What problems might it pose for those left behind? The film will be wholly objective and attempt to focus on as many digital outlets as possible, discussing the story with people from all walks of life, through as many income brackets and backgrounds and possible.
We look to examine the mobile phone and its impact on those who have died, including deleting text messages and personal voicemail from loved ones or taking a cherished family member out of your contacts list.
We acknowledge that the Internet has been around for almost 20 years in the public consciousness, but this documentary wants to examine a digital age in which we’ve become more personal about our private affairs online then we’ve ever been, more willing to accept the Internet for a tool to help us meet that special someone, get that great job, book that fantastic holiday and even declare all these things in a statement of individuality on a generic corporate platform. When a younger person dies, its common place that their photos or videos might exist in the profile of a friend, who can hardly be expected to remove them from their own profile – thus that person is still tagged and living in those photographs or videos.
The initial focus of the film will be documenting the history, current state and future of this phenomenon. We’ll speak with representatives from Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter – looking at their own response and observation of this issue – we’ll also talk to traditional print media, such as Newspapers, about their own statistics. We’ll also speak too learned members of the community to hear the opinions of physiologists, cultural observers and traditional practitioners of death on the impact this has on a personal level. Finally, we’ll look at case histories and examples from individuals who have allowed us to share their experiences and grieve in their own loss with them, telling us about the process they experienced.
While the actions and opinions of physiologists, cultural observers and traditional practitioners of death (such as Funeral Directors and Crematorium workers) are likely to prove extremely insightful and informative, we’d also like to talk to the digital age – young people affected by the untimely death of a friend or relative, family members coping with loss and even the employees of digital forums and networks that have dealt with this phenomenon. What is Facebook, for example, doing about the accounts of people who have died – is there a due process? In the distant future, will relatives of those who held such personal accounts (with photographs, blogs and interests) find information – in the same way we might use a genealogy study – by looking at the archives of Facebook? And will the corporation own the rights to, and charge for access to, that content?
The secondary focus of the film will be on the world we inhabit. We’ll discuss the new technologies and advances that companies are making in the Digital Age to improve upon the task of documenting where every living person is at any one time. Asking whether it’s such a “small world after all” and looking at the positive impacts of, what some might argue, is being under “the watchful eye of Big Brother” – with over 500 Million Users, Facebook would be the 3rd Largest Country in the World (Twitter would be the 5th) and we want to see if the 80% of Americans between 20 and 29 that use Facebook are thankful they’re movements are able to be documented so well.
If nothing else, Virtual Imprint will give you something to think about, something you may never have considered before.