Sunday 20 September 2009

Facebook for the Dead - catchy or creepy?

Friends this is an interesting article published in Australia. Read it and decide if this is something that will catch on!

A Canberra man who watched his wife struggle to deal with the deaths of many loved ones has used the internet to come up with a way to keep in touch from beyond the grave.
Peter Ingham and fellow entrepreneur Andrew Slattery have created a website being dubbed 'Facebook for the dead', which allows the living to upload videos, photographs and important messages, which will then be sent out after they die.
The site,, allows the living to upload videos, photographs and important messages, as part of a virtual "time capsule".
Mr Ingham says they saw a need for the unique service to allow people to prepare a proper goodbye or mend past wrongs if they need to.
"The number one aim of the site is to keep in touch with loved ones, today, tomorrow and beyond and to create everlasting love," Mr Ingham told ABC News Online.
"Predominantly it's a cache of memoirs of your loved ones - times you spent with your children, the first day at school - and these can be continually added to the site to be shared with them when you pass away.
"You can also leave farewell messages, you can leave ongoing messages into the future so you can leave messages for birthdays and random messages."
Mr Ingham says the concept came about after he watched his wife struggle to deal with her grief.
"She lost her mother, grandmother, two best friends, her aunty and uncle in a two-year period," he said.
"Just seeing how her and all her family had to deal with it especially those with debilitating diseases, where they couldn't even communicate with loved ones, I just wanted to find a way to help them out."
Mr Ingam, who has worked in tourism and electronic security in the past, says also experiencing the sudden death of his aunty contributed to the birth of the concept.
"My aunty had a brain tumour so she couldn't even communicate at all about six weeks after getting the illness," he said.
"She couldn't write, she couldn't show facial expressions or speak any more. She couldn't tell her loved ones anything, and to me I thought there has to be a way to fix that, so this is what we've created."
As well as writing emails to be sent after they pass, members can pen their own eulogy or record a multimedia message for their own funeral.
The site also allows subscribers to store large multimedia files for use in the future while they are still alive, for example to collate for an upcoming 21st.
The social networking meets memoir project was launched two weeks ago after a 12-month trial period, and Mr Ingham says it is taking off already.
"We've had an incredible response in those two weeks ... there's nothing like this in Australia," he said.
Ethics of beyond
Ethics expert Andrew Dutney, from Flinders University, sees some value in the idea, but warns against avoiding proper communication in life.
"It's very important to ensure that we don't replace face-to-face communication with technological alternatives," he told ABC News Online.
"The memory of a loving word or a hug or just those ordinary expressions of affection is probably more significant than receiving a pre-recorded message sometime after your loved one has died.
"The daily communication of love and respect and appreciation is crucial."
Associate Professor Dutney says the benefits of such a service are more for the person who is dying than the person who survives and reads the messages.
"For a person who's dying, any tools that they can use to reassure themselves and to get themselves ready are going to make the dying process better for them," he said.
"For the people who receive the messages, it's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's good to have the connection with those you've lost.
"But on the other hand, it can quite traumatic to be suddenly be taken back to the place of bereavement."
Associate Professor Dutney's brother, Supreme Court of Queensland Justice Peter Dutney, recently died while on a charity bike ride.
He says in dealing with the sudden death of his brother, he's learnt that messages can come from beyond in unique ways.
"Just yesterday, I took delivery of his luggage from Coober Pedy where he died, and that was really confronting because it was still covered with dirt and his bike helmet was still sweaty and that was a message from beyond," he said.
Associate Professor Dutney also believes the service leaves itself open for misuse.
"One would hope that someone who's dying would use the time they had in constructive ways, but you could conceive of someone, either selfishly or vindictively, spending a lot of time producing these messages, so that some who's left behind is reminded them persistently over a year, a couple of years or a lifetime," he said.
Mr Ingham says there is no way to stop people from using the service in unsavoury ways.
"We have no idea what messages are saved so none of our staff would know if a harassing message has been left behind," he said.
"Everybody's got their own idea of life and what they want to do, I guess if they want to do that, they can do that.
"But the person can easily unsubscribe to your messages if they don't want to see them anyway."
But Mr Ingham hopes people choose to use his site in a positive way.
"Nobody likes talking about death, but the reality is, we're all going to go one day so you can share your memories with your loved ones and if something does happen to you, it's all there for you," he said.

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