We've talked about cyber-afterlife before on this blog, but in the realm of MySpace pages, something created by an individual that simply remains up after they die and then becomes a sort of de facto tribute to them, after the fact.
But what about using the technology for a more purposeful memorial? Such options are out there. I had the opportunity earlier this week to speak with Louise Zweben, CEO of SympathyTree.com, a company that allows users to create online memorials.
It's a fascinating site, and I recommend everyone check it out, at least for a quick parusal.
There are two immediate benefits available from this type of memorial, benefits that Louise has consciously worked to create.
First, due to the one-to-many and even many-to-many nature of social network communication, information can be posted on one of the sites and instantly dispersed to family all over the world. When someone passes away, there are lots of logistics that need to be communicated to family and friends—where is the funeral, where should everyone donate money, where should they buy flowers, what hotel is the immediate family at, etc. With a memorial site, the immediate family can designate a single person, or a couple of people, to post the relevant information, spread the site address, and then interested parties can simply log in to see all information as it is updated. Clunky phone trees are not necessary. Multiple, emotionally taxing phone conversations can be avoided. Brilliant, right?
Second, the site allows the family and friends to tell the complete story of the deceased: their life and their death. Louise says, "It starts a conversation about the person's life." Users have a choice to make the site public or private. If public, anyone can read the site and comment. If private, viewers and commentators are limited to those selected by the site's moderator. You'll notice on the public sites, there are photos and stories. People share anecdotes and memories.
After my grandfather died, one of my favorite moments was going through all of the cards everyone left at his funeral. Many people wrote about great things he had done for them, things my parents, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle didn't know about. Some shared funny stories. If this was done on a memorial site, everyone who had access to the site could share in the joy that we felt reading about my grandfather's best moments.
Also, something I like better about this type of site than the MySpace site, it is honest about time and tense. The person has died, and the site starts out telling the story of their complete life and death. There is no incomplete, weird forever alive in cyberspace feeling like you get with MySpace pages of people who have died.
I have more to say about SympathyTree.com than I can reasonably fit in one post. So, I will be adding more later ... but these are my first thoughts. Please check out the site and let me know what you think.