Sunday, August 25, 2013

Social Media, Grieving and Cyber-Bullies

Following up my earlier blog post about social media and dying, the Huffington Post ran a blog  on Cyberbullies and Grief  written by Reverend Amy Ziettlow and Professor Naomi Cahn  who tweet on topics such as grief, digital estate planning and dying . Citing to a recent Chicago Tribune article, the blog discusses RIP Trolling, which they explain is "when anonymous Internet users post offensive comments on Facebook profiles and other digital sites related to the deceased." RIP Trolls was a new phrase for me and a link in the Ziettlow and Cahn blog took me to a 2011 article by Rebecca Greenfield in the Atlantic Wire, titled RIP Trolling as Social CritiqueThere is also a mention of a study from last year by the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, an article on which is forthcoming.


 The point of the blog is the need for what Ziettlow and Cahn call a "digital proxy" ...

"who will run interference for us online, separating out the meaningful expressions of support and grief from the offensive and hurtful comments. Through a digital proxy, we can make digital grieving a private place for mourning and communal remembrance in the public world of the internet."

They note the concept of a proxy isn't new, citing how a neighbor or friend steps up when there is a death in the family and noting that this typically is an informal proxy arrangement.

Of course, we all have seen the explosion of attention on planning for one's digital estate, with articles---law review and otherwise as well as CLEs. Don't forget too, we all have a digital presence (one of my favorite articles is about a firm's digital assets and is written by our alum and a dear friend, Jason Turner, who spoke on this topic at my SNT conference (shameless promotion alert) and again at the NAELA 2013 annual meeting before writing about it in the ElderlawReport ). 

Now we have one more layer to consider-the digital proxy. Ziettlow and Cahn offer two steps--1) selection of the proxy (no less an important decision than the selection of a health care proxy or an agent under a DPOA) and 2) identifying the tasks for the proxy.  As Ziettlow and Cahn remark,

"Living in a digital age where the line between public and private, real and virtual, continues to blur and shift, planning for our digital presence moves beyond bequeathing passwords to protecting our digital story. Our life's legacy lives on in the comments and pictures shared about us after death, making protecting that story and those who find solace in it all the more critical."

(Thanks Naomi for sending your blog post to us for inclusion in this blog).

So do we now include (if we haven't already), materials about social media and dying as part of the curriculum in our Elder Law courses? I don't think three credits is enough any longer to cover everything I think my students need to know. This is one of the many things that I find fascinating about Elder Law-the breadth of topics. But of course, as you already know, I think

Elder Law ROCKS!!!!!

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