70% of people in Japan want to be deleted from the internet when they die

Many familiar with Japan’s labor market will have heard the term shukatsu in reference to the job-hunting activities taken on primarily by graduating university students. In recent years, however, the term — or rather, a playful homonym of it — has taken on a different, somewhat more morbid meaning: preparations for the end.

This kind of shukatsu refers to the myriad of arrangements one can make before their own demise, which can include everything from funeral arrangements (cemetery plots, coffin attire and even post-mortem hair and nail care) to decluttering old belongings and — as a Rakuten Insight survey earlier this year explored — a healthy digital scrubbing.

In January 2022, Rakuten’s consumer research arm quizzed 1,000 people between the ages of 20 and 69 about their take on this version of shukatsu, revealing some intriguing attitudes towards our digital legacies.

Young women are particularly proactive about early preparation

The survey revealed that around 70% of Japanese adults are at least thinking about the end, indicating that they were either already taking action or planned to in the future.

This rate predictably rose with age, but the breakdown revealed a stark difference in attitudes between genders. Across all generations, women were considerably more likely to be thinking about shukatsu, beating out their male counterparts by over 10 percentage points.

This difference was particularly pronounced among respondents in their 30s — around 73% of women answered positively, compared to just 48% of men. In fact, the percentage of women in their 30s who were already engaging in shukatsu activities — while just 6.6% — was significantly higher than those of all other age groups except for those in their 60s.

When quizzed about why one would want to start their end preparations early, around 67% of positive respondents answered that they didn’t want the burden to fall to their families after they passed. This concern was especially prevalent among women in their 50s, at around 80%.

Some Japanese women in their 30s reported that they are already making digital end-of-life preparations.
Some Japanese women in their 30s reported that they are already making digital end-of-life preparations.

Those liable to take on the burden seemed to be in agreement — around 70% of all respondents revealed that they wanted their parents and/or in-laws to be proactive about shukatsu.

What to make of our digital “legacies”?

So what does shukatsu typically entail? Around 60% of preparers responded that they wanted to sort out their physical belongings — an activity typically associated with the shukatsu concept. But it was the next most popular response that may surprise: 40% revealed that they wanted to sort out their digital belongings stored on PCs and smartphones.

Intriguingly, it was men in their 50s and 60s that seemed most concerned about their leftover data, with over 50% choosing this response, compared to less than 25% for their female counterparts. Overall, awareness of the idea of one’s “digital legacy” seemed to rise with age, with the exception of, again, women in their 30s, who demonstrated around twice the awareness of their male counterparts.

Social media was another point of concern: Around 70% of those with social accounts responded that they wanted their online presence completely scrubbed upon death.

Breaking this answer down by service, tweets and TikTok videos were the biggest target at around 76%, with Instagram posts and messaging app chat history not far behind at around 68%.

Around 20% of social media users revealed that they planned to leave some content behind, particularly personal messages. Meanwhile, a further 10% reported that they would leave their social media accounts untouched — an admirably “no-regrets” attitude to life online.

For its part, Rakuten takes its data protection responsibilities very seriously. And since Rakuten is a global company, it has adopted the highest global standards for privacy and data protection — the Binding Corporate Rules — approved both in the EU and the UK, respectively. Furthermore, Rakuten always strives to respond to its users requests, so that they can exercise the rights granted to them under all applicable regulations.

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