Death, digital data and grief: Elaine Kasket interviewed by The Observer

Psychologist and writer Elaine Kasket spoke with The Observer over the weekend about what happens to our social media accounts when we die, and how its changing the way we mourn. In the interview, Elaine talks about the issues with keeping all our memories online and the problems relatives face when trying to access the e-mail and social media accounts of the deceased. In her new book, All the Ghosts in the Machine, Elaine explores these topics, how we navigate the complexities of maintaining an online presence after death and how, when it comes to grief, there is no easy answer. All the Ghosts in the Machine was published by Robinson on 25th April 2019.

Elaine also appeared on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service last week to discuss our online legacy and spoke to Prospect magazine about our digital afterlives.

You can read the full interview with The Observer here.

As we’re compelled to capture, store and share more and more of our personal information, there’s something we often forget. All that data doesn’t just disappear when our physical bodies shuffle off this mortal coil. If the concept of remaining socially active after you’re no longer breathing sounds crazy, you might want to get used to the idea. Digital afterlives are a natural consequence of the information age, a reality that barely anyone has prepared for – and that ‘anyone’ probably includes you.

In All the Ghosts in the Machine, psychologist Elaine Kasket sounds a clarion call to everyone who’s never thought about death in the digital age. When someone’s hyperconnected, hyperpersonal digital footprint is transformed into their lasting legacy, she asks, who is helped, who is hurt, and who’s in charge? And why is now such a critical moment to take our heads out of the sand?

Weaving together personal, moving true stories and scientific research, All the Ghosts in the Machine takes you on a fascinating tour through the valley of the shadow of digital death. In the process, it will transform how you think about your life and your legacy, in a time when our technologies are tantalising us with fantasies of immortality.

Elaine Kasket was born in America and began writing at a tender age, self-publishing a book at the age of nine and flogging copies on the school playground. After completing degrees in psychology and journalism at university, she dreamed of bringing the two disciplines together in a career as a science writer, but took a detour and pursued a doctorate in clinical psychology instead. After her move to the UK in 1999, she became a psychologist by choice and an academic by accident, and spent many years building her psychotherapy practice and working at universities. After producing a number of journal articles and chapters for academic texts, the experience of doing a solo-authored book – How to Become a Counselling Psychologist (Routledge, 2017) – finally convinced her to take a break from her role as Head of Programmes for Counselling Psychology at Regent’s University and to return to her writing roots.

Elaine lives, practices and writes in London with her partner, young daughter, and five troublesome chickens. You can follow her on Twitter at @elainekasket and read about her current project at www.alltheghostsinthemachine.com.