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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


I 've never met Woody Allen. However, I was once in a restaurant in New York where I exchanged smiles with Tony Roberts. I think he thought that I thought I knew him and that, possibly, he might know me too, but I didn't and he didn't. I was smiling because I was thinking to myself, 'Ah! That's Tony Roberts who appeared in Annie Hall and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, two of the 'mid-period, funny-ish' Woody films, in the first of which Roberts' character keeps referring to Woody's character as "Max", while in the latter he himself appears as someone called "Maxwel", something that cannot have been a coincidence.' It was a long smile. We were both worn out by the end of it.

Anyway, my point is, Woody Allen once famously quipped, 'I don't want to achieve immortality through my work...I want to achieve it through not dying.'

Sadly, although the lads and lasses of the medical profession have been somewhat remiss in coming up with a prophylactic treatment for death, the anoraks and gilets who toil at the coalface of t'interwebs have at least ensured that when we kick the bucket, the clatter it makes as it crashes into our simultaneously shuffled-off mortal coil will continue to echo around cyberspace.

For instance, if you fancy leaving a simple message on Facebook after your death (such as 'Why did I waste so much of my life on Facebook?') you can do so by downloading the optimistically-monikered app If I Die ( If that sounds a little too perfunctory, then DeadSocial ( will enable you 'to create a series of secret messages that are only published to your social networks once you pass away.'  Imagine the joy in the faces of all your hundreds of close personal facebook friends when, years after your death, you're attempting to do some retro poking of them long after the poking facility has itself died a welcome death.

Meanwhile, people at Lives On ( are going one step further by planning a service that analyses your twitterfeed 'learning about your likes, tastes, syntax' in order to produce completely new tweets after your death, giving the impression that life beyond the grave is so crushingly dull that you feel constrained to carry on compressing your thoughts into 140 characters.

Ghoulish? The near future's new normal? A good way of getting revenge on an enemy by bombarding them with hate mail when you're safely beyond the law? Or merely another straw onto which post-religious generations can cling in the face of onrushing Death? After all, I suspect it's one of those things that gives more comfort to those who fear death than it will to those who receive the messages. If you don't think you're going to exist in any meaningful way after your death, tweeting your grieving spouse with some witty line about your cat might be a source of some meagre solace. Alternatively, it might just remind those left behind why your death, after all, wasn't quite such a tragedy after all.