Death Trends in the Digital Age
In recent years, due to the prolific usage of social media and other digital platforms, we have been more exposed to worldwide discussions about death and dying than ever before. The death of a celebrity does not come without a torrent of digital dialogues; everybody has the ability to register their reaction on the public domain. In fact, it may even be considered unsavoury if one decides against composing a digital outcry against death; if your feelings aren’t accessible through the world-wide-web, do they even exist at all?
What is ‘Tearleading’?
The Independent recently published an article which debunks the term ‘tearleading’ as ‘the process of publicly sharing condolences after someone famous has died‘. Albeit it being no more than a clunky amalgamation of ‘tears’ and ‘cheerleading’, this phrase goes some way to help us to understand the extent to which online platforms are used as virtual condolence books worldwide. It isn’t uncommon for us to hear about the death of a public figure through the limited characters of a grief-stricken twitter user before any news outlets have even caught wind of the information.
Technical Funeral Innovations
We do not merely use the internet to write about death; we are part of an age that is birthing many technological varieties that are engineered to digitise death and funeral traditions for good.
Whilst some new trends might seem to veer on the side of wacky, there are many positivities regarding the digitisation of death. For one, it appears to be the case that more than just a fresh dialogue about death has blossomed in recent times; with the expansion of our digital and technological capabilities, we have seen the notion of death be the driving force for productive activity and invention.
Here at Perfect Funeral Plans, we have taken great interest in reporting the pioneering technological advances that have burst open within the funeral industry. For us, some of the most notable advances include:
- Death Reminder Apps: The WeCroak app aims to remind its user of their own mortality by sending-out famous quotes regarding death five times a day, based on the Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person one must contemplate death five times daily. It is then recommended that you take some time out to contemplate the quote about death you have received from a philosopher, notable thinker or poet. This mostly takes the form of meditation or conscious breathing.
- Childrens’ Grief Apps: A number of apps have been developed and are used to aid children through times of grief. The national charity Child Bereavement UK have created an app which features an in-build notepad so that users can freely express their thoughts and feelings as they happen and the app includes information about where to find help and support and helps you connect with other young people who are bereaved – a clear benefit of the digitisation of mourning.
- Memorial Spaceflights: Memorial spaceflight involves shooting up your ashes amongst thousands of items that circle the earth all year round, including spy satellites and communication satellites. There are many variations of memorial spaceflights; you can even have your ashes launched into deep space, where your cremated remains or DNA are placed onto a spacecraft that then travels into deep space. This is one of the most exciting alternative death rituals to date.
- Terminally Ill Bloggers: The growth of career-bloggers has come hand-in-hand with the growth of terminally ill bloggers. Many brave people are taking to the internet in order to document their battles with an illness that is leading to death. Whilst this is a personal and deeply painful thing to witness as a viewer, terminally ill blogging has the power to help the masses who might be going through a similar journey. This is an example of how the internet can be a beautifully healing and formative place.
- Live-Stream Funerals: More and more people are live-streaming funerals to enable remote people who cannot attend the service have a part in witnessing someone’s final ceremony. This is a definite perk of our improved technologies, as it increases inclusivity for such important events. People have registered a concern, however, that live-streamed funerals may diminish the incentive to attend a funeral in person, depersonalizing the process at large.
- Death Chatbots: Many of us find it very difficult to talk about death. Those of us who were born into or after the ‘dot com’ era may report that ‘talking’ to a computerised being about difficult topics is easier than talking about them in person. Emily, the free messenger bot developed by LifeFolder, was created with the intention of imitating a trained nurse in order to help people discuss end-of-life planning decisions. Whilst this certainly helps to encourage people to face necessary fears, it may be seen to damage or reduce our social dialogues about death and dying.
It is clear that digital and technical advances are changing the way in which we face death forever. There is more freedom to have personalised ceremonies, and dialogues can be seen to be opening in some areas. But is there a problem with the notion of our death-dialogues moving online?
There is nothing to say that ‘tearleading’ should seriously stunt or harm the way we communicate about death in person. In fact, what we read and contribute to online can fuel our real-time conversations, hopefully encouraging openness and tactfulness regarding instances of death and dying.