Death in digital spaces: social practices and narratives

Published: Jan 23, 2020
Stefania Graikousi
Maria Sideri

Purpose: In post-modern society, Internet and social media mediate between daily life processes such as death, establishing new forms of social interaction among social actors and creating new norms. The creation of digital cemeteries and the usage of the services they offer by Internet users, the conversion of a deceased person’s Facebook profile into a profile “Remembering” or the replacement of a user's profile photo by a black background in cases of grieving, demonstrate emphatically the new dimensions that the event of death takes on Internet and social media, leading to the building of a public experience, despite the fact that in Western societies death is considered to be a private affair.
Methods: This paper based on an in-depth review of the literature deals with death as an event mediated by new technologies, since Internet and social media have given the opportunity for new narratives about the experience of death and have contributed to the emergence of new social practices.
Conclusions: Users’ interaction in digital environments, on the account of death, generates new broader social relationships, while the operating terms of digital media enable the emergence of new death-related practices that probably substitute traditional rituals, having though the same purpose. At the same time, the continuing presence of the deceased in the digital world ensures a form of "immortality" for him/her, even if not preselected, while at the same time it seems to contribute to the maintenance of a relationship between the living and the deceased.

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