Digital mourning : how to grieve through social media ?
It has been said that by the end of this century, there would be more dead users on Facebook than the living ones. This affirmation makes us think about an essential issue : what about our digital life will we leave once we’re dead ? If the body dies, the data still remain…
This issue has already been talked about in the second season of the series « Black Mirror » when a woman tries to virtually rebuild the life of her deceased boyfriend. We have to recognize it : technologies have changed our way to think about and to deal with our relatives’death and our own death, as Yves Alphé (a funeral profesional in Orléans, France) reminds us.
Facebook, Gmail, a personal website or blog…there are so many data we leave behind us on the Internet ! This changes the way to manage the data once the person has died on the one hand, and can trigger material and administratives problems on the other hand.
A lasting and transformed mourning
Some studies estimate that more than millions of emails account still belong to deceased persons. Furthermore, Facebook would host 90 millions of dead people’s profiles ! That is the reason why, when we talk about digital mourning, Facebook is in the top 3 of what we think about.
Mark Zuckerberg thought about it : there are on Facebook several features to deal with dead people’s profiles. You can for example transform the profil into a memorialized account or simply ask the social media to delete the account. There’s also a « legacy contact » you can choose before your death, just in case of a problem. Those features were set to avoid friends suggests from deceased people for example.
Whatever there are transformed into memorialized account or not, dead people’s pages have dramatically changed our way of considering mourning, especially online, indicates Yves Alphé. In real life, mourning people have a time (and several steps) to go to the funeral home, the funerals cermony itself…usual habits, isn’t it ?
However, on the Internet, everything is different : the mourning period is longer and can last much more time and make it even harder for relatives. One can still post media of the deceased person, as a memorial intention for example. Some experts even say that mourning can last forever.
A digital testimony
With all those transformations, administrative and legal fields have adapted, as indicates Yves Alphé. In France for example, one article from the digital republic law indicates that any person may establish guidelines for the storage, erasure and communication of personal data after death. These directives are general or specific.
Many companies have aleady started selling digital testimonies services.
To conclude, digital mourning should be more and more thought about, with all the data we leave on the Internet, especially on social media.