Houman Barekat in LA Review of Books:
A FEW MONTHS AGO, I got a terrible fright. I was on my smartphone, rereading my old WhatsApp exchanges with a friend who had died in a car accident a year earlier, when suddenly the screen flickered and the friend came “online.” Presumably a relative had possession of the phone and was going through it; maybe they were looking to retrieve some specific piece of information, or perhaps they simply wanted to revisit their loved one’s online life — just as one might peruse a photo album or a trove of letters. There was a simple explanation, but I was nonetheless spooked: it was unnerving to see the account spring to life, because we tend to think of social media profiles as being inextricably entwined with their owner’s personhood — an extension, almost, of their physical selves.
Intuitively this feels right, especially in the circumstances of that particular case. But merely having access to an account is one thing; using it to post new content in the name of the deceased person is another.