Tweeting Grief

by Tracy R. Walsh

Headstone

Sarah Cashmore considers the perils of mourning via social media:

[A] colleague of mine at University of Toronto recently completed a study where she investigated whether online grieving has implications for the bereaved or the memory of the loved one. They found that certain features of Facebook’s platform can actually create an environment of competition among mourners. This leads to the concern that users could inadvertently negatively affect the memory of their loved one, which I think is very important. …

I think the issue of using social media to bereave a friend points to a problem that goes for any cultural institution: as soon as you institutionalize a way of doing something, you open a possibility for responses to become artificial very quickly. For this reason, I don’t think there should be one way of bereaving a friend online. I think the lesson to be learned here is that the Internet needs to be open, and that we need to stay free to create our own spaces and new ways of communicating, on our own terms.

Tamara Kneese looks into one novel way people are managing their legacies online:

Today, multiple companies provide QR codes that attach to physical headstones and link family members and friends, but also random graveyard visitors, to memorial websites or other information about the deceased. Children can now learn all about the grandfather they never met while visiting his gravesite. In fifty or even one hundred years, so the idea goes, people will be able to scan QR codes with their devices and learn more about the people buried in a cemetery.

(Photo: The grave marker of Michael S. Hart, “inventor of the e-book, founder of Project Gutenberg, very dear friend, still digital from beyond.” By Flickr user Benjamin sTone)