Home » Digital Death

Digital Death

Social Media: In Loving Memory of All Your Data (Tombstone Image)

I am interested in what happens to your personal data when you die. What do Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and the hundreds of other companies that hold your personal data do with it when you pass away. Can your loved ones access that data after you die, and if so, how? Can other people delete, edit or curate your data posthumously? Is it ethical for companies to turn your personal data into an online memorial (complete with advertising) to keep friends and family viewing your content after death? Who gets to ‘tell the story of you’ online, when you’re no longer here to influence that story? How realstic or even one-day-possible are shows like Black Mirror that see people resurrected, in some fashion, rebuilt from their social media traces? These are just a few of the interesting and quite pressing questions relating to digital death in the era of digital networks and social media. Below you will find the various publications, presentations and media & press interviews I’ve done relating to digital death. At present I’m (slowly) working on a project about the way digital death is imagined in popular culture from popular but wildly implausible visions in Black Mirror through to less seen but far more interesting films such as Marjorie Prime which might shed some light on how our digital data might be ‘remembered’ in the future.

I am a member of the Australian Death Studies Society.


Leaver, T. (2019). Posthumous Performance and Digital Resurrection: From Science Fiction to Startups. In T. Kohn, M. Gibbs, B. Nansen, & L. van Ryn (Eds.), Residues of Death: Disposal Refigured (pp. 69–79). London & New York: Routledge. [Open Access Pre-print: https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/2gkw9]

Leaver, T. (2018) Co-creating Birth and Death on Social Media In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.) A Networked Self and Birth, Life, Death. (pp. 35-49). New York: Routledge. https://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315202129-3 [Open Access Pre-print: https://mediarxiv.org/s6ev4/]

Leaver, T., & Highfield, T. (2018). Visualising the ends of identity: pre-birth and post-death on Instagram. Information, Communication & Society, 21(1), 30–45. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1259343

Leaver, T. (2016, November 24). Facebook’s accidental “death” of users reminds us to plan for digital death. The Conversation, http://theconversation.com/facebooks-accidental-death-of-users-reminds-us-to-plan-for-digital-death-68745

Leaver, T. (2015). Researching the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Social Media. Social Media + Society, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305115578877

Leaver, T. (2013). The Social Media Contradiction: Data Mining and Digital Death. M/C Journal, 16(2). Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/625

Leaver, T. ‘A Death on Facebook? Social Media and Posthumous Profiles’, Coping with Death and Grief Through Technology Panel, Internet Research 14, Selected Papers of Internet Research 14.0, Denver, CO, USA, 24 October 2013, http://spir.aoir.org/index.php/spir/article/view/889/464


Leaver, T. (2021) Imagining Digital Death in ‘Loretta’ and Marjorie Prime , Death Online Research Symposium 5 #DORS5, Online, 21 April 2021. https://youtu.be/y6QtwNJnCrg

Leaver, T. (2017, September 1) ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Algorithmic Afterlife’ in the Human Relationships in the Time of Artificial Intelligence panel, Directions and Destinations, Curtin University, 1 September 2017.

Leaver, T. (2017, April 7). Saving the Dead: Digital Legacy Planning and Posthumous Profiles, John Curtin Institute for Public Policy, Curtin Corner, Perth,  http://www.slideshare.net/Tama/saving-the-dead-digital-legacy-planning-posthumous-profiles

Leaver, T. and Highfield, F. (2015) Instagramming The Ends of Identity: Pre-birth and post-death identity practices mapped via the #ultrasound and #funeral hashtags, 12th ICA Mobile Pre-Conference, From Womb to Tomb: Mobile Research Across Genders, Generations, Ethnicities, Cultures, and Life Stages, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 20-21, 2015 http://www.slideshare.net/campoalto/instagrammingthe-ends-of-identity-prebirth-and-postdeath-identity-practices-mapped-via-theultrasound-and-funeral-hashtags

Leaver, T. and Highfield, T.  ‘Mapping the Ends of Identity on Instagram’, presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) Annual Conference, Swinburne University, Melbourne, 9 July 2014, http://slidesha.re/1oyDVl7

Leaver, T. ‘Saving the dead? Posthumous profiles and social media’, Internet Histories/Internet Futures Symposium, University of Sydney, 12 February 2014 (invited presentation).

Leaver, T. ‘Co-creating Life and Death on Social Media?’, Resisting the (Facebook) Interface – Internet Research 14 Preconference, Denver, USA, 23 October 2013.http://slidesha.re/18Ua5nk

Leaver, T. ‘Birth, Death and Facebook’, ACAT: Adventures in Culture and Technology Seminar Series, Curtin University, 25 September 2013, http://slidesha.re/GAX474

Leaver, T. ‘Who Do You Think You Are 2.0?,’ CCI Symposium, Perth, Western Australia, 12 November 2012, http://slidesha.re/PNRnWk

Leaver, T. ‘The Ends of Online Identity’, Internet Research 12, Seattle, 10-13 October 2011. http://slidesha.re/1D4Mr7t

Media and Press Interviews

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Cassie McCullagh, Digital Death and Reanimation, Focus, ABC Radio Sydney, 27 February 2020, 10.32am. https://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/focus/focus/11986494 [Mp3]

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Bec Bowman, Life and Death on Social Media, The Mag, RTR FM, 18 September 2019, 9.35am. https://rtrfm.com.au/story/the-internet-and-the-presence-of-life/ [Radio]

Leaver, T. Interviewed for Life and death on social media, The Future Of Podcast, Curtin University, 2 September 2019, https://news.curtin.edu.au/podcasts/?episode=9430dde5-1b7e-4e17-8183-b96636cdb60c

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Nathaniel Keesing, Faced with Death: How People Grieve on Facebook, 2SER FM, 26 June 2019, 11.47am. [Radio] https://2ser.com/faced-with-death-how-people-grieve-on-facebook/

Leaver, T. Interviewed in  Inga Stünzner, Facebook and grief in the digital age – when should we unfriend the dead?, ABC News, 22 June 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-22/knowing-when-to-unfriend-the-dead-on-facebook/11210666

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Phil Staley, Digital Demise, Mornings, ABC Far North, 30 April 2019, 10.51am. [Radio]

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Xavier Hazard, What happens to your digital accounts when you die?, Western Independent, 29 March 2018, https://westernindependent.com.au/2018/03/29/what-happens-to-your-digital-accounts-when-you-die/

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Kathryn Robinson, NSW will be looking on how to manage one’s digital footprint after death, ABC News, Sydney, 27 March 2018, 7.47pm. https://youtu.be/UrAL4JFFrb4 [TV]

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Fiona Wyllie, Social Media After Death, Statewide Drive, ABC Central West Radio, 27 March 2018, 4.40pm. [Radio]

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Michaela Whitbourn, What happens to your social media accounts when you die may soon change in NSW, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2018, p. 10, https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/what-happens-to-your-social-media-accounts-when-you-die-may-soon-change-in-nsw-20180326-p4z6al.htmlLeaver, T interviewed by Rebecca De Unamuno, Dealing with Digital Death, ABC 702 Sydney, Evenings, 6 December 2016, 8.45pm. [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed by Kier Shorey, Managing Social Media After Death, ABC Far North Queensland, Breakfast, 9.15am, 2 December 2016. [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed by James Valentine, Memorials on Social Media,  702 Sydney, Afternoons, 24 November 2016, 3.15pm [Mp3] [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed by Lyrella Cochrane, Facebook Memorials, Arvos, ABC Darwin 105.7, 18 October 2016, 3.40pm. [Mp3] [Radio]

Leaver, T. interviewed in Cat Rodie, “I’m not ready to go yet” – Death in the time of Facebook, Australian Women’s Weekly, 31 March 2016, http://www.aww.com.au/latest-news/im-not-ready-to-go-yet-death-in-the-time-of-facebook-26284

Leaver, T. interviewed in Emma Wynne, What happens to your social media accounts when you die?, ABC News, 29 March 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-29/what-happens-to-your-social-media-accounts-when-you-die/7281832

Leaver, T. interviewed by James Lush, What happens to your social media profile when you die?, Breakfast, ABC 720 Perth, 24 March 2016, 6.48am [Radio] [Mp3]

Leaver, T. interviewed in Emily Blatchford, Multiple Generations On Social Media Are Major Source Of User Frustration, Huffington Post Australia, 24 February 2016,

Leaver, T. interviewed by Barry Nicholls, Death on Facebook, Drive, ABC North West WA,  4.20pm, 18 September 2015 [Radio] [Mp3]

Leaver, T. interviewed by Matthew Karstunen, ‘A Virtual You Upon Passing and the Implications’, The Daily, 2SER Sydney, 6 November 2014,   [Radio]

Leaver, T. interviewed  in Cassie McCullagh and Jason Di Rosso, ‘Online Life (and Death) and the Culture of Thrones’, The List, Radio National, 29 March 2013,  [Radio]

Leaver, T. interviewed by Tim Bennett ‘New service allows users to tweet after death’, The Wire, 2SER Sydney, 6.20pm, 4 March 2013. [Radio] [Mp3]

Leaver, T. interviewed in Rick Morton, ‘Facebook from beyond the grave’, The Australian, 25 February 2013, p. 11.

Leaver, T. interviewed in Kristin Shorten, ‘Foetusbook the new Facebook for parents’, News.Com.AU, 30 January 2013,

Leaver, T. interviewed for Debra Jopson, ‘Digital never dies – but it may be out of reach when we do’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2012, p 1.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.