Why would you have a funeral in real life when you could have it online, allowing people to pay their respects without ever having to put on a black outfit or even leave their homes? The New York Times explores our modern state of affairs, let’s call it Memorial Services 2.0, where pretty much everything, from birth to death, is landmarked digitally. Among the offerings in this new world in which we live and die are software programs for DIY online memorials, funeral home webcasts, digital tribute DVDs, and live-streamed services — some offered free, some charged for.
The Times refrains from making a judgment call on this development, and instead focuses on its inevitability. After all, if we bestow birthday wishes, announce weddings and anniversaries, and share every detail of our (or our children’s) lives on Facebook and Twitter, why wouldn’t we eventually do the same with death? Not to mention, there’s the convenience: “Watching a funeral online can seem better than not going to a funeral at all”!
“We are in a YouTube society now,” said H. Joseph Joachim IV, founder of FuneralOne. “People are living more than ever online, and this reflects that.”
But we can’t help but wonder: Is this what the pope meant when he said that “online friendships are no substitute for real human contact”? You can’t cry — or hug, or pass someone a Kleenex — online, yet, can you?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 25, 2011