When Your Death Goes Viral
The increasing frequency with which we live our lives online has resulted in changes to the way we conduct the business of dying. The intersection of death and the internet can be seen in many ways, from estate planning designed to address digital assets to passing on one’s values and morals through an online ethical will. Another way in which the two meet is the online obituary.
As Ruth Graham discusses in her article for Slate.com, the traditional short and sweet obituary in the local paper is giving way to the online obituary. An online obituary is freed from many of the constraints of the traditional obituary, and the author is able to share additional details and stories about life and death of their loved one. In addition to sharing information about a decedent’s life, an online obituary may also include information about the decedent’s passing that is unlikely to be included in a traditional obituary. For example, some families have shared stories about a loved one’s battles with addiction that ultimately led to a fatal overdose. Online obituaries can also be decidedly more lighthearted, with the author sharing funny stories, anecdotes, and words of wisdom. Sometimes the authors of an online obituary are the decedents themselves. Perhaps as a result of the wide latitude given to authors of online obituaries and their very personal subject matter, many of these obituaries have gone viral, providing an average person 15 minutes of fame from beyond the grave.