Nothing is too trivial.
Each and every response to a questionnaire or form requires thought and consideration. For
instance, when setting up a “Trusted Contact” for my Google account, I was given the option of
writing a personal note or simply having an automated message. The easy way out would be to
opt for the automated message, but I thought about the recipient and the message that they
might someday be on the business end of: would I want it to be dry tech boilerplate, or a true
message from me to them? And if the latter, what should it say? Should it be reassuring and
comforting; factual and to the point; something in between? When a message has the potential
of carrying so much weight, you scrutinize every single character.
While we all are going to know our loved ones best, this can nonetheless be a very difficult
topic for people to approach. How can companies that offer these services be sure they’re
striking an appropriate balance between factual and emotional tones?
Communication is a requirement.
We live in a world where increasingly the most common form of communication is an instant
message, and where inference or “saying something without saying something” is how many
tend to prefer to speak with one another. But that just doesn’t work here: conversations need to
be had, wishes need to be made known, and hard and explicit choices need to be made and
codified. Technology can help, but in the end it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with
a very human issue. And while services like SafeBeyond afford the opportunity to send selective
missives, I’d argue there’s no substitute for having these conversations while one is still around;
in the end, live is always better than Memorex.
Technology has given us the fantastic ability to communicate with a large social circle — the
new frontier might very well be how technology can also begin to help in facilitating some of
these more sensitive and intimate conversations.
I’ll be honest in saying that this exercise brought me no closer to feeling at ease with the
fact that one day I will cease to exist. I wish I could say that the experience of investigating all
of these services has given me more peace of mind, and in some ways it has, but the moment
where my life will end is still as incomprehensible to me as it was before; the entire experience
was frightening, emotional, and fraught with many decisions that I’d rather not have to confront.
However, whereas in the past one was forced into having these difficult discussions over the
kitchen table or in the confines of an estate lawyer’s office, newer services and ideas — whether
digital or in-person — allow for a different space in which to formulate plans, learn about one’s
options, and find ways to talk with our loved ones about the process of eventually leaving them.
JACK CURRY is a multi-disiplinary designer living in New York City. Working
mainly in brand and typeface design, his work often lies at the intersection of
observation, culture, and the signified. And while he loves New York City, he's not
quite sure if he wants to die there.
VOLUME II | 25