MySpace ghosts: frozen in time

August 28, 2007 at 3:00 am 1 comment

Kim photo - BrazilWe all know about MySpace, but did you know about MyDeathSpace.com? A little creepy if you ask me, but this site contains the MySpace pages of members who have died – a virtual graveyard. As CBS News says, the site caters to twin obsessions – memorialising death and prying into stranger’s lives. Around 2,700 deaths are recorded on the site. And I suppose there’s no reason not to have a site that immortalises those who have gone. We have digital biographies, which celebrate the actions and faux paux of the living, so why not a site that leaves behind a trace of someone who has gone with digital eulogies?

Here is a map of MySpace members who have gone and the stories they have to tell are often heart-wrenching and tragic. There’s the story of an 18 year old boy and his friend who were killed when their SUV swerved to avoid a deer in the roadway; there’s the story of a 16 year old boy who fainted in the shower and drowned. The MySpace pages of the departed have been abandoned as though the person had to rush away quickly, without warning. And the date of the last log-in is a telling reminder of how close the person was to exiting this world. I guess it’s like a wake-up call for us all, nudging us to contemplate our own mortality.

Last weekend, I visited a Memorial Park (fancy name we have in Australia for some cemeteries). A member of my family recently died and I’ve been considering the final resting place. As I wandered around, looking for a suitable spot, I was struck by what I think is a newish trend. I have to confess a liking for cemeteries (no, I’m not weird; they interest me from a historical perspective). When I lived in Dubbo (country NSW) in the 1980s, I produced a history of Dubbo Cemetery (not sure what happened to that piece of work, maybe it’s on some dusty library shelf somewhere). The cemetery was crowded with granite and concrete angels, perched high on their pedestals, jostling for position. There were huge, dark looking crypts; cracked tombstones; little concrete lambs sitting forlornly atop a child’s grave. You could read the stories of the silent “selves” – those who had passed from the Spanish flu in 1918; soldiers succumbing to the enemy in defense of country; those fallen to the fickle circumstances of fate or accident. What I didn’t see much of then was photos accompanying tombstones. This seems to be a European tradition – framed photos of fading loved ones, pleading to have you remember that yes, we once existed.

Twenty years later at the Memorial Park, I noticed graves marked by colour photos – snapshots of smiling grandparents; portraits of people who died way too young; images of children cut down by accident. And so MyDeathSpace is an extension of this – a testament to all the different voices of the digital age – the young girl sharing her frivolous teenage fantasies; a young soldier prepared to die in Iraq; young dudes sharing their music and poetry hoping to catch the attention of the music or publishing industry. The MySpace pages of departed ones serve as a memorial wall and no doubt families derive comfort from posting a birthday message as life goes on.

In a twist that has me intrigued from a legal liability POV, MyDeathSpace posts photos of alleged killers on the page of the victim. This has unfortunate repurcussions – a woman who carries the same name as an alleged baby killer was tainted with the brush of accusation even though the poor woman’s profile was taken down. Clearly, this is also a space for voyeurs or those fascinated with the macabre, who are curious about how a death occurred or like to speculate. And the ads that pop up on the site make you wonder about capitalising on death. And so death and grieving becomes public. Let’s just hope it is respectful.

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Entry filed under: Bizarre, MySpace.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Top Posts « WordPress.com  |  August 29, 2007 at 4:19 am

    […] MySpace ghosts: frozen in time [image]We all know about MySpace, but did you know about MyDeathSpace.com? A little creepy if you ask me, but this site […] […]

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