Tag Archives: online

Dealing with Death in a Digital Age

My grandmother passed away on Tuesday. And while I’m trying to find a way to cope with this on a personal level, it’s also been a challenge to navigate this road digitally.

Before the Internet days, how did the news spread? Word of mouth, maybe phone calls, an obituary… But now we live in a world where we broadcast our most private thoughts to the world and it’s been a challenge to find an appropriate medium.

On one hand, I don’t want to tell anyone about my family’s tragedy because it does seem like such a private thing. My closest friends have most likely all already heard, and there’s no need for anyone else to be involved. On the other hand, I want to shout from the rooftops the story of my grandmother’s life, how much I’ll miss her, and how devasting her death has been to my family.  Is it a private struggle or one made public in the same way that we have no hesitation about sharing other private aspects of our lives on the Internet?

My blog is where I think things through, my FaceBook profile is where I let people know what I’m thinking or feeling at a given time, and my Twitter status lets my followers know where I am. So is it still acceptable to clue everyone in to what I’m facing, or is this event too exclusive, too shattering to be lumped in with the usual mundane activity? It’s a fine line between honoring someone’s life and being sacrilegious. The words I’m using seem cheap to me and don’t do the occasion justice.

Or is this just the obituary – updated for our digital times?

identity 2.0

One interesting trend that I’ve noticed over the years is the convergence of our offline and online identities.

When did we become comfortable enough to discard our pseudonyms for our real identities? I believe we were directly influenced by the two waves of Internet innovation and that the convergence demonstrates the maturing of the Internet population.

First, there was AIM and MySpace, where we were encouraged to create aliases incorporating our unique attributes and interests a la “nsyncchick” or “sk8er4eva”. They may sound silly now but reflect the creative skills of your typical teenager, arguably the most active Internet population at that time.

Then came Google Chat, Facebook and LinkedIn. All three are successful because of the use of real names.

But I wonder if all this is safe? Wasn’t that the reason for the use of nicknames in the first place? Has the active internet population shifted so much that predators aren’t an issue anymore? Or have we just gotten too comfortable?

And how has this changed the way we communicate and represent ourselves online? We can no longer hide who we are and can very easily be held accountable for what we put onto the Web. I absolutely take into account that my parents, peers, prospective clients and colleagues can view what I’ve included on this page and elsewhere. So are we all self-censoring who we are? Can we be all things to all people?