Preparing for the digital afterlife

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WGN-TV reporter Randi Belisomo and her husband, CLTV political reporter Carlos Hernandez Gomez.

CHICAGO — When WGN-TV reporter Randi Belisomo lost her husband Carlos to colon cancer in 2010, she couldn’t fix the cable because he was the only one with the account password.

Things like passwords, social media channels, and online banking accounts are often overlooked when a loved one dies. So Belisomo’s organization Life Matters Media is co-hosting an event that will help people deal with handling and communicating digital information before a loved one passes on.

The event, “Your Digital Afterlife,” will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Revolution Brewing as part of Craft Beer Week. The event will discuss the often-overlooked topic of death: The online and electronic implications. People can take these matters into their own hands, but they may not know how.

“‘Do you have any important business online?’ That is now just as important of a conversation as asking somebody their health care preferences in a life-threatening situation,” Belisomo said.

Those interested in registering for “Your Digital Afterlife ” can do so here.

Several options exist for those facing end-of-life decisions and how they affect the digital afterlife. These include password managers, third-party entities akin to the cloud. Google has an Inactive Account Manager that lets you decide what happens to your account should it go inactive for a period of time.  Facebook has launched a similar feature called Legacy Contacts.

“It’s all about planning for a certain reality,” Belisomo said.

Life Matters Media, which provides support for people involved with end-of-life decision-making, has been around nearly two years. “Our primary audience … has been older, middle-aged people caring about their parents,” she said.

But this event provides a new road into a larger audience.

“The opportunity to be involved with Craft Beer Week and have good food, good beer, young speakers, with people who are more tech savvy,” Belisomo said. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to reach out to a younger community in a significant way that we have not yet done in two years of existence.”

The digital afterlife is among many conversations that people can engage in when making end-of-life decisions. Ignoring or evading such talks for emotional reasons may have the opposite desired outcome in the end, and prevent loved ones from enjoying their limited time together.

If Belisomo could go back, she said, conversations would go beyond just her husband’s treatment.

“You know, I know he loved me, he knows that he was loved by so many people,” Belisomo said of her husband. “I wish we could have spent our time in more meaningful ways.”

WGN’s Marcus Leshock also covered this topic in February. His full story can be seen here.

 Story by Thomas Owen, WGN.

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