Do you talk to dead people online?
The data of the dead sticks around alongside those of us still living, and you could say we encounter ghosts all the time. Is the Internet another form of what the Victorians called spiritualism? Here we take a look at whether speaking to the dead is coming back in fashion through social media and the online world.
Is spiritualism coming back?
Some people really do believe in ghosts. More than 8 million Americans claim today to believe in some parts of spiritualism, such as speaking to the dead, being visited by the dead and even haunted by those pesky dead ones. Here in the UK, we’re a supernatural bunch too, with 1 in 3 adults agreeing that ghosts exist, according to a YouGov report.
Spiritualism was at its height in the 19th century, but with the online world so prominent in our lives, the dead stick around and roam free. Here’s how.
Are there dead people online?
If you’ve recently bought a book based on an Amazon or Goodreads review, was that review authored by someone who was alive or dead? If you booked a particular place on Airbnb because of a great write up, is that person still walking the earth? Not many of us people believe in an afterlife, but we’re either fans of communicating with the dead, or it’s an unavoidable phenomenon.
It’s possible that we’re being influenced by the dead online, just like the great performances by dead actors in our favourite classic movies, or the words we read written by dead authors.
Are you interacting with dead people on social media?
Nowhere is the presence of dead people felt online more than on Twitter and Facebook. These are the platforms where the dead get really noisy. With more than 8,000 Facebook account owners dying everyday, Facebook’s billions of users mean it’s fast becoming the largest digital graveyard.
You might recognise the unsettling scenario where a dead friend or relative pops up on Facebook, perhaps in a prompt to recognise a birthday or as a suggested guest at next week’s party with a group of old school friends.
But it’s on Twitter that dead people start to update us on their whereabouts, and it’s on this platform that the more strange interactions happen. Albert Einstein, who died in the 1950s, is still a prolific tweeter. The ‘Official Twitter account of the World’s Favourite Genius’ is managed and run by the branding group Corbis Entertainment, which specializes in licensing rights to famous dead people. With 45,000 followers, Einstein’s ‘verified’ account is still influential, dispensing wisdom and sharing the latest research findings. Einstein even asks questions and takes polls. It’s like he’s still in the room.
Do dead people’s social media accounts get hacked?
There’s also a more harmful side to interacting with the dead online. In 2016 David Carr, a New York Times columnist, had his Twitter account hacked by a spambot, which saw him tweeting unsavoury content. He’d died a year earlier. Hacking into accounts that are still active but are no longer used isn’t new, but when the account used to belong to a dead person, it takes on a more morbid significance. Bumping into dead people online isn’t always fun.
Does being online change how we approach those who have died?
If you’re online then you’ve probably interacted with a dead person. But is it so morbid as it sounds? There’s no harm in sending a Facebook message to a dead loved one, or even getting into a Twitter spat with Einstein. The Internet is set to become an online graveyard, with countless Google accounts laying dormant, so we might as well get used to it.