Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SPAGHETTI OF SOCIAL UNITS

I recently celebrated the umpteenth anniversary of my 39th birthday. Tempus fugit (time flies, for those who abandoned their Latin classes even earlier than I did) at a helluva rate these days. Other people have birthdays around now too, and I typed in my Facebook password and wandered around looking at the happy wishes for those I knew. It made me think: what happens if I should, say, fall under a bus? How is anyone going to untangle what a friend has called the spaghetti of social units and other internet connections that I, like millions of others, have forged in the past decade or so?

Once upon a time, when an accident happened, people would be telephoned or written to with the news. Wheels would turn. Papers would be drawn up and signed. Property might be transferred. There could be a tiny paragraph in the newspaper recording an accident to some unnamed person who was careless crossing the road. But what about the internet?

Without a password, no one can go into my Facebook account and, as it were, cancel my subscription. It wouldn't matter with Facebook. My page would simply remain in the state I left it. But there are more than twenty sites that I visit fairly regularly that require passwords – and I'll bet that this is modest by most people's internet experiences. Some, like Facebook, can be abandoned. But others are important. I have, for example, three e-books on the virtual market, and there are passwords so that I can access information about them. At present only I can see the numbers of people who view and sample and even actually buy the books, only I can hear the occasional lonely chink of dollars dropping into my account. E-books presumably continue to be on sale, perhaps for ever, long after the authors have gone.

In case of my demise all sorts of complications could arise. Legal matters like copyright, and the management of accounts. As far as I know there is no provision for cancelling, or transferring, ownership of an internet identity. No one else can close those virtual accounts that I have been opening all over the ether with such careless abandon.

I guess that is a kind of immortality. In the meantime, roll on the next anniversary of my 39th birthday. At the rate tempus fugit it won't be long.

Painting: Girl in Red Dress

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