Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Social Networking for the Dead" and Our Lives Afterward

Well, once again Nick Carr's given me a bit of a laugh--as well as something to think about--by unearthing of a Guardian Unlmited story on "a kind of social network for the dead." But other than the obvious (and funny) jokes on Nick's blog, appears to be offering an important service to those of us left with the business of life once our significant others have passed away...

Let's face it--our little egos hate to think about the impending doom of death. We trip through life knowing it will get us eventually--but like teen-agers, Eventually seems a long ways away. Yet people die every day without leaving adequate instructions on what we're supposed to do about their burial, the bills, and lots of other things we may not even know about. Even worse is the plain fact that lots of us who are well under Retirement Age really never think all that much about just going to a lawyer and drawing up a will--even after we do the domestic partnership, or get married, or have kids (well, sometime the kid thing becomes the tipping point--but not always.) Still, a will doesn't cover *everything* that The People We Leave Behind will have to deal with.

And, honestly, when was the last time *you* talked about this stuff with someone who loves you?? When was the last time you said "so, honey, if I die tomorrow, don't forget that the electric bill's due on tuesday and clear out the diamonds from my safe deposit box in Boston..."

But, all jokes aside, if you've ever gone thru the death of a parent (my Mom died 2 yrs ago), a close relative, or anyone whose life has been bound in some way to our own, there are always things that are left unsaid. Sometimes we never know his/her Last Wishes,and we could very well be in the dark as to what to do and how to handle things. Even if we know our loved one's Last Wishes, in cases of catastrophic events, such as that in the life of Terry Schiavo, there may be someone, somewhere, who disputes our intimate knowledge and claims they know our beloved's *true* last wishes.

Something like YouDeparted, and the information left there by us or our sig others, could clarify any ambiguities, as well as help with other decisions that must be made in the time immediately following our death or the death of someone close to us.

And, when you think about it, when so much of us live a great portion of our lives online, doesn't it make sense to leave some of that kind of info out here too? It is, perhaps, a lot easier than going to a lawyer? Esp. for us who are potentially squeamish about the idea of death and wills and all that legal stuff...

With looking at this site, I'm also reminded of Respectance, the online memorial site that also has a social networking component. Here's Respectance's About page that explains how it can be an important place to meet others, share memories, and ease the grieving process.

Also, my friend Jill Fallon has kept blogs on death and surviving a loved one's death-- Legacy Matters and Business of Life--for quite some time now. I wonder what she might think of something like (other than that the name might not be so terrific.)

Those of us whose lives are lived in the moment, who may never yet have suffered a significant loss of another from our lives, might not feel a need for something like YouDeparted or Respectance, or need the advice on Jill's blogs. But, frankly, eventually, the death of a loved one will come crashing down on us and we'll feel something horrid--something we never knew we could feel. And, we will still have to deal with the business (both literally and figuratively) of life afterward. So, we can get funny about "After Life" where our Second Life avatars might go--that's perhaps because we really don't want to admit that we just might be so vulnerable, and mortal, that we won't know what to do next if something happens to us in Real Life. But some folks are. And that's, perhaps, a good thing.

Update: Russell Shaw polls the public on whether or not we might use something like, and adds some details.

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