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The digital afterlife: what happens in social media when we die? Part II

This second podcast explores how physical death is experienced in social media. Three people, three stories; each of them reveals how complex and diverse identity has become online- even in the afterlife. What happened to the profiles of the friends they lost? What do they represent to them? Are there clashes between the digital and the physical world?

Do social media become a way of staying immortal?

[podcast]http://ia331225.us.archive.org/3/items/DeathAndSocialMedia-HowDoPeopleExperienceTheDeathOfAPersonOnline/Death_socialmedia_part2.mp3[/podcast]

Jimena, Harris, and Ryan, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, and let me integrate them into my podcast. I appreciate it very much.
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The digital afterlife: what happens in social media when we die? Part II by Nadine Wolf is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-No comercial-Compartir bajo la misma licencia 3.0 Estados Unidos License.

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8 Comments

  1. Alexandra 10:00, Apr 6th, 10

    Great job, Nadine! It was fascinating to hear from our classmates about their own experiences. I like how you integrated some theory in your podcast as well. Looking forward to your conclusion!

  2. ElzbthMllr 10:52, Apr 6th, 10

    This was really awesome. Found the other student’s stories very valuable, I don’t have any first hand experience with this so it’s good to hear from others.

  3. HoniehLayla 12:13, Apr 6th, 10

    Very Cool!

    I really enjoyed the fact that you explored each of the different cultures through our classmates.

    I have to say that I have learned of friend’s deaths through Facebook and it was a complete shock, but personally I don’t know if there is an up and coming industry or community that is being created through these different social platforms.

    Maybe there should be – it does aid with the mourning process for many.

    I loved how you interviewed everyone – I enjoyed listening to it.

  4. Leslie 13:15, Apr 6th, 10

    Awesome podcast- I learned a lot & was great to hear from fellow students. It’s interesting how these social media sites keep those who have passed away “alive.” I wonder if it interrupts how people usually mourn a lost one. Traditionally, you’d have to physically attend a funeral or go visit the grave, or some may go to a temple to pray.

    But now, with social media sites, the deceased person’s name can easily pop up on the home page of the site, making you think about the person during times when you might not have. I agree with Jimena that these social sites could make it much harder to let go.

  5. niharika 13:35, Apr 6th, 10

    Really like that you used the cross-cultural perspective Nadine !

    Personally I have also learned of a close friend’s passing through facebook, and to date continue to see his family members posting on his wall as if speaking to him … so in Ryan’s words it really does become a virtual tombstone – they use the various applications facebook offers to leave him gifts, flowers, funny quotes, their favorite photos of him, etc.
    I know that for all of us close to his family we have talked off how we feel facebook is making it very difficult for them to let go off him, and there have been several moments I have had to refrain from clicking on his profile else it would just put me in a funk … so definitely I agree with Jimena & Leslie that virtual memorials, webpages et al just make it much harder to let go ..

  6. Dalia 14:09, Apr 6th, 10

    Very interesting Nadine! I think the idea of having a Facebook profile after a person dies will always garner mixed reviews as different people mourn in different ways. Harris’ story is similar to a story of mine that happened to me 3 years ago, except it was with a college friend. After hearing your podcast I decided to check Facebook, and yes her profile is still up there! I guess my question is what happens if the family decides to take the profile down? do they have the right? who owns the profile then?

  7. Ryan 15:52, Apr 6th, 10

    Awesome research! (Not just because I have a narcissistic desire that I like to hear myself) but you did a great job of organizing the interviews and the material that you gathered. I also think that you made your topic much more richer by the fact that you interviewed three people and found various perspectives across the spectrum and compared and contrasted each person’s viewpoint on death and social media.

    I would comment on your topic, but I guess all you have to do is listen to what I said in the interview ;) I look forward to your last conclusion on the matter. It would be great if you could find a family to interview that has their son or daughters profile on facebook. That would be a great final post. It would require some tough legwork but it would really make this travelogue end on a high note if you were able to get a hold of a family.

    Again, great job with the podcast. Maybe you could do a slideshow + podcast combination to enrich it even more. Worth a try.

  8. Juliette 15:27, Apr 9th, 10

    I think that this facebook user status could be of your interest.
    This user has lost his father yesterday and has updated his status right after: “My dad died peacefully today after a protracted battle with septicaemia. My feelings of loss are mixed with great pride and admiration.”

    He received 51 comments within 24 hours of posting this. All of his friends came to share their sympathy and fond memories of his father. I had never seen anyone updating his status in such a way. To me it is a new approach to Facebook.