“The life of the dead consists in being present in the minds of the living” – Cicero
Rituals of mourning are changing. Communities live farther away and further apart from each other than ever. The way we communicate with each other has changed, and continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Often, it can feel hard to keep up.
Some things, however, change more slowly. Until very recently, the obituary section was one of the most widely read parts of the newspaper. Not only is this a way to inform people with details about the person’s death, it becomes a medium through which to discuss their accomplishments as well as note the survivors of the deceased.
The form and function of the obituary have also changed in recent years. Online social forums have extended the potential reach of traditional obituary information as well as increasing exponentially the amount of information (and indeed potential misinformation) on the dead. Facebook and other social networks are now important forums for the representation of and space for mourning. Online rituals enabled through social networks may have a powerful role to play in enabling and empowering individuals who can be marginalised by traditional forms of memorialisation. These can include those relatives who are far away, in geography and/or time zones, or who do not have the economic resources and/or time to travel to traditional forms of grieving rituals such as a funeral.
Research seems to indicate that funerals have changed from what could be described as celebrations to displays of stoicism, where it seems more important to hide emotions rather than to join with others in displaying them. Therefore, online memorialising can be viewed as an important new form of expression, especially with its more public dimensions (as well as more private feats of social networks).
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