Online memorial

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An online memorial screenshot showing a main tribute page plus links to other sections such as Life Story, Gallery, Timeline and Journal

Online memorials are spaces created to remember, celebrate, or commemorate those who have died. Although memorials may be as simple as a one-page HTML webpage document giving the name of the deceased and a few words of tribute, many are more developed and allow users to add their own words and photos.

Online memorials started appearing in the late 1990s but were very unusual. Many were websites created in response to the death of an individual who was in the public eye such as for Rachel Corrie, rather than for general members of the public. In 1997, Carla Sofka[1] recognized the increasing use of the Internet for grief expression at a time where few predicted its emergence as a new form of memorialisation. Online memorials for public events, such as the one created by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, can help communities to collectively produce a shared and authentic response to the event.[2]

Content typically includes multiple photos in a gallery or slideshow plus chosen music and videos uploaded along with memories and stories from friends and family. A common feature is the acceptance of thoughts or candles, often by visiting strangers to the memorial offering their condolences and support to the grieving party. There can be a timeline which charts the person's life and a family tree to display their links with ancestors and descendants. There may even be a blog or journal which provides a record of emotions and feelings felt during the period of bereavement.

Rising popularity[edit]

Anyone can now easily create a memorial in cyberspace and it is becoming increasingly popular to do so.[3] Members of the Facebook generation will have no difficulty getting their heads around this but those finding difficulty with the concept might consider that an online memorial is the most effective way of bringing together a community of grieving people who are geographically scattered.

For many who have lost loved ones, visiting a churchyard or a crematorium is not always possible. They might live too far away, might dread crying in public or find the journey too difficult. These increasingly popular sites allow people to be able to remember and commemorate together, wherever they are and whenever they wish.

They can also appeal to many different motivations and needs. They can be private memorial sites, or a way of sharing memories with friends and family. They can even be used to memoralise a loved one to the general public. By definition all online memorials can be visited at any time day or night and they also appeal to the environmental movement by being the greenest memorial available.

Bereavement service manager Nikki Archer, who works at St Giles Hospice in Lichfield, believes tribute websites will become more widespread. She explains "Twenty years ago, no one put flowers on a roadside following an accident, but this is usual practice now. The way we accept people's grief is changing. We are more tolerant of accepting expressions of emotions like flowers or books of condolences. The way we used to cope with death was to try to minimize its impact with rituals. But the events like the death of the Princess of Wales show we are expressing our grief differently because society is less formal."[4]

Helping with grieving[edit]

An online memorial is now widely accepted as an integral part of the grieving process outlined in the stages of grief model, and the underlying basis for this is the way in which it can bring those affected by a death closer together by encouraging communication and expression. It is normally one of the tools for bereaved people to communicate with each other and to act as a bridge with others.

An additional benefit is that it can prolong the grieving communication process. It is very easy to all feel compelled to 'stop talking about it' once the funeral has taken place when successful grieving normally requires a much longer period of active remembering. An online memorial where friends and family can all tell their stories and express their feelings of loss over the medium term can help everyone manage their grief effectively together.

Differences between website memorials and obituaries[edit]

There are some key areas in which an online memorial differs in principle from an obituary. Whilst an obituary is normally produced by an independent writer looking to create an accurate assessment of the character and life of the deceased, an online memorial will be more emotive and subjective.

An obituary normally focuses on information through text rather than portraying the character of the deceased through sounds, video and pictures which make memorials a much more flexible tool, although there are signs that obituaries are starting to make more use of multi-media benefits. Most importantly however, an online memorial reflects the grief and memories of the bereaved as much as the life and character of the deceased and so is much more of a living testimony than an historical record. They each serve their purpose but the memorial is designed to help the next of kin in the process of grieving whilst the obituary is more a matter of fact for the public record.

Governance[edit]

Online memorials now have their own voluntary code of conduct [5] at The Memorial Code[6] which was established after some instances of inappropriate adverts being added[7] and a lack of clarity over tribute costs and charges. The code offers five principles to the making and running of such tribute sites and invites all providers to sign up to and help develop the code. It sets down the general principle of stewardship that such websites exist to serve and support the needs of bereaved people and it also sets out the key rights and responsibilities of both the service provider and the memorial creator.

Types of hosting provider[edit]

Most people do not have the time, budget or skills to create and host their own website and so a number of service providers have become established. Bereavement experts advise that there are many different types of online memorial providers including both charity sites and commercial operators so people should decide what is important to them. Another model is for free online memorials to be offered by sites engaged in related commercial activity.[8]

Memorial creators are advised to check the ongoing costs of the tribute and if free find out whether there is advertising or other strings attached. Above all, creators should make sure that their site will be password-protected so that it can remain private and avoid sites without clear privacy safeguards and a firm financial foundation. A memorial site is potentially fertile ground for identity thieves, especially those sites which let anyone wander into anyone's memorial. Creators therefore need to be sure that the site has robust authentication and privacy controls, and is properly monitored.

Memorial pages of social media[edit]

Facebook offers the possibility to transform the profile of a deceased user into a memorial.[9] Family members or friends can report an account to be memorialized upon presentation of proof of death.[9] When the account is memorialized, Facebook removes sensitive information such as contact information and status updates, but still enables friends and family to leave posts on the profile wall in remembrance. However, only confirmed friends can see the memorialized profile or locate it in search.[10]

Memorial web services can be found online by google search.

Fundraising in memory[edit]

An online memorial can also be used as an effective and appropriate way of collecting In Memoriam donations to charity, often as an alternative to sending funeral flowers, or in order to do something positive in response to a death. This might be to help support their work or to fund medical research, or just as a way of thanking an organisation such as a hospice that may have assisted.

Increasingly, online memorials can double-up as an online Tribute Fund and many leading charities now offer an internet memorial service[11] as part of their Tribute Fund scheme to help people sensitively collect in memory donations on their behalf.

Memorial Pages can also be created through online memorial sites and applications on the internet, where people can share memories, photos with their Loved One`s friends and relatives, or even to light a candle for them. [12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sofka, C.J. (1997). "Social support "Internetworks," caskets for sale, and more: Thanatology and the information superhighway". Death Studies 21 (6): 553–574. 
  2. ^ Hartelius, E. Johanna (2010). ""LEAVE A MESSAGE OF HOPE OR TRIBUTE": Digital memorializing as public deliberation". Argumentation & Advocacy 47 (2): 67. 
  3. ^ ft.com
  4. ^ thememorialcode.org, Clare Grant, 'Computers made our Grieving Easier' Yours Magazine, July 2007
  5. ^ Budak, Bertan (12 December 2007). "New code of conduct for virtual grieving". The Guardian (London). 
  6. ^ thememorialcode.org
  7. ^ Doward, Jamie (19 July 2007). "Family fury at 'bad taste' memorial". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ online memorials provided by crematorium
  9. ^ a b John Herrman (15 March 2010). "What Happens (Online) When We Die: Facebook". Gizmodo. Retrieved 17 April 2010. 
  10. ^ Max Kelly (26 October 2009). "Memories of Friends Departed Endure on Facebook". Facebook Blog. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  11. ^ thirdsector.co.uk
  12. ^ iaminheaven.com