In death do we digitally depart

My parents never really sat me down for that dreaded discussion about death, but I knew at an early age that life was infinitely finite, regardless of what or who you were. Death comes to all, and that includes your beloved pet terrapins, hamsters, dogs and of course, humans.

My parents never really sat me down for that dreaded discussion about death, but I knew at an early age that life was infinitely finite, regardless of what or who you were. Death comes to all, and that includes your beloved pet terrapins, hamsters, dogs and of course, humans.

My earliest memory of "knowing" a human death was at age 14, when a schoolmate I knew collapsed and died from a brain aneurysm. In the 21 years since then, I've had to deal with several sudden deaths, some on a more personal level than others.

Still, I see death as a necessary chapter to mark the end of a lifecycle--after all, every story that has a beginning must have an end. Whether your story is long or short depends on how much time you've been given to live out this life. More importantly, death, especially one that is unexpected, serves as timely reminder that we should appreciate our loved ones while they're still around.

With the past month marked by natural disasters and hundreds of lives lost, as well as the sudden death of a young celebrity, I've been thinking about what I'd leave behind when my life reaches its expiry date.

I'm not planning to have kids so I'll leave no physical link or evidence of my worldly existence after death. And while I've cared for my dog since she was five weeks old, the precious bitch can hardly be considered my living legacy.

My thoughts then moved online and I wondered about my digital footprint. If I left this world today, what kind of a digital legacy and persona would I be leaving behind?

As an online journalist, my digital footprint is probably larger than some, like a US size 9 compared to the average 6. But this footprint contains largely news articles and features that don't necessarily reflect what I personally represent. And other than some mundane ramblings in this blog discussing my observations about tech and life, and inconsequential Facebook updates about how great I think Fridays are and why some drivers shouldn't be allowed on the road--stick to the left lane, you 50km/h highway hoggers!--the value of my digital persona is pretty much, well, naught.

But, in this post-Internet era, as generations replace previous generations, the digital footprint of a human life will be increasingly larger and will carry more valuable assets.

This, however, complicates things a little.

Loved ones of anyone whose life revolves around the Web could face a tough time if that person dies without leaving proper instructions on how to access their digital assets.

We've all probably heard so much about security breaches and the need to take responsibility for our own data, that most of us now protect our passwords as carefully as husbands shield their credit cards from their wives. But that also means our loved ones will likely have no way of knowing and accessing our online properties, including e-mail accounts, personal contacts, electronic documents, online journals...though ignorance would probably prove blissful if your spouse's diary carries sordid details of a love affair.

I'll be curious to know how many of us have a digital will, and more curious to find out how these documents would stand in court.

Until then, I'll be mulling over the digital trail I should be leaving behind for my family and whether I should care more about my online persona while I'm still living it.

What digital legacy will you be leaving behind?