Thursday, April 27

MyDeathSpace - A Trend That Died Too Young?

The gray lady must've heard the criticisms... I've never seen the NYTimes document a trend as quickly as this article on the use of social-networking profiles in mourning the death of young people. Why, it was only a month or so ago that Chris first showed me MyDeathSpace and now the Times is already reporting how communities of "personal Web pages have suddenly changed from lighthearted daily dairies about bands or last night's parties into online shrines where grief is shared in real time." And now that the Times knows, we must regrettably conclude that this young trend has jumped the shark.

For the moment, though, it's still a common occurrence to read news of an untimely death and immediately learn more about the deceased online than any traditional obituary every would say. (At least the scrapbook photos tend to portray them far better than the typical DMV file-photo used in newspaper reports.)

What I find sad about the whole phenomenon is how needless most of the deaths reported on MDS are: reckless immaturity or involvment with crime and other stupidity is behind so many of the fatalities. The one-off stories in the press don't convey that message nearly as powerfully as a website that collects hundreds of unfortunate demises in one place. The Internet has been credited with changing the way people think about a lot of social issues -- can it be that young people's perspectives on death and dying will be next?