Deceased people’s data is burgeoning online. Why should we care?

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The ancient Natufians had a practice that, on one hand, seems quite odd to us moderns. They buried their dead under their houses but retained the heads, making plaster death masks to hang on the walls.

On the other hand, are we so different? We too keep our dead around, but they stare at us from our phone and computer screens, physically dead but socially alive. Facebook and Instagram already retain and memorialise the profiles of the dead.

In 2020, in order to write, I need to rebel. What about you?

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This is my Rebel Writer manifesto.

To be a true rebel writer, I must be risky, bold, generous, committed, supportive, and open.

To truly grow, I must rebel. So I will rebel against my fear, my shame, my embarrassment. I will rebel against my inner critic, my inner editor, my inner saboteur.

I will kill my stories so that I can write my stories.

I will be honest about the difference between thinking about writing and writing.

I will no longer use ‘incubation’ as an excuse for not putting words on the page.

Sometimes the very places you once longed to escape become exciting again.

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Once upon a time, I lost my way on a walk, and I genuinely panicked that I’d remain disorientated long enough to die of exposure. It was a summer’s evening in urban England, I was half a mile from my front door in full sight of two roads, and I was nearly 40 years old. From the safety of my East London sofa just now, I image-searched ‘adventure’ on my laptop and was greeted with dozens of photos of very fit but clearly insane people, separated from certain…

Welcome to the writing arm of the Rebel Book Club. Here’s how to submit.

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You might not remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about Rebel Book Club. But you probably remember the moment you first walked into that room full of people and thought, ‘This isn’t what I expected…’

This, you see, isn’t any ordinary book club, the kind where you talk about the book for five minutes if you must, but really it’s just an excuse to get out of the house and have a natter with friends or neighbours. Rebel Book…

My phone and my gratitude are mortal enemies. Here’s when I realised that.

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I once had a thief of a job. It stole nearly everything: every waking moment and too many of the sleeping ones, my health, my attention. Whenever it broke into my mind, its burglary tool of choice was my phone. All my daughter’s early drawings of me depict me with a glowing rectangle in my right hand, a kind of cyborg arm. The stick person would always be smiling, but I know — and she knew — that behind those two dots for eyes, the mind was elsewhere.

My daughter had a stick person with an illuminated hand for a…

How’s Twitter supposed to decide what to keep and what to cull?

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During Thanksgiving week in America, when people celebrate family ties over turkey and pumpkin pie, Twitter announced that it was beginning a massive cull of inactive accounts. Anyone who hadn’t signed in for six months, it warned, would soon have their account wiped from the network.

If someone hasn’t logged on for half a year, maybe they’re on a social media detox. Maybe they’ve decided that they prefer to express themselves in more than 280 characters.

Or maybe they’re no longer alive.

In the latter case, the user…

Use an exercise about death to help you live a better life.

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A couple of days ago, I was sent a new book to review, a daily diary that’s designed to help people live a more self-aware and values-aligned life. Flicking through its pages, I spotted that the authors, both of them psychologists like me, had included a variety of values-clarification and values-tracking exercises throughout. That’s incredibly helpful, because it can be challenging to summarise our core values — it’s not something that we’re asked to do very often.

But modern life has made awareness of our values even tougher. We know how we’re supposed to appear. We know which of our…

The digital legacies we leave behind are exquisitely revealing — for good or ill

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Imagine that the image above is someone who is important to you. It could be your daughter, your sister, your partner or your best friend. You love her, and you would not hesitate to say that you know her. You feel that you understand her. And yet you are at the mercy of what she reveals to you. Your knowledge of her is bound up in the context of your relationship with her. …

Future generations may know you as a faceless citizen of the Digital Dark Ages

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Each time I’ve encountered a dead body, I knew it was about to happen, and I could have opted out. Such is the luxury of choice and control in places where death is highly managed, where the care of the sick and the dead is carried out largely by professionals. I come from a country where open caskets are common, so those physical remains that I’ve seen in my time were embalmed and carefully made up for public view by professionals licensed by the state, graduates…

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their aim.

Photo by from Pexels

‘A fish and a bird could love each other, but where would they live?’ — old country saying

Itry and fail to work out the origin of this saying. The playwright Joseph Stein used a version of it in Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevya explains to his Jewish daughter why it would be foolhardy to marry a Gentile. It appears that Stein didn’t invent the phrase, but who did? Various memes say that it’s an African proverb. Someone on AllPoetry calls it an ‘old country saying’. I like that.

I now know that I come from ‘country’, from seven…

Elaine Kasket

Psychologist, writer, keynote speaker. Author of All the Ghosts in the Machine (2019):

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