Mourning in the Digital Age

How Social Media Helps Loved Ones "Live On"

December 7, 2014
Image: Donsolo Via: Flickr Creative Commons

Could digital ghosts be changing the way we grieve? Many deceased users' profiles live on as “memorial” pages, allowing survivors to send messages, post photos, and "interact" with the departed. One web watcher estimated that by 2012, there were three million memorial pages on Facebook.

Religious studies professor Candi Cann says networking memorials are helping people maintain social connections to departed loved ones. She says that social media may make people “view the deceased, on some level, as continuing to live,” since the online language of mourning is usually in the present tense and directed at the deceased.

Cann says online mourning practices also democratize grief. Anyone, regardless of their relationship to the dead person, can publicly share their bereavement.

“Funerals and weddings always reflect the hierarchy of the relationships of that particular person,” Cann says, mentioning seating arrangements at funerals as one way social relationships are reinforced. “Now, everyone is equal. Everyone has equal access to the deceased.”

What would you look like your Facebook profile to look like after you die? Send us a note in the comments section below, or post your thoughts on our Facebook page.