When it comes to the topic of death in the social media field, there have not realistically be that many cases, especially high profiled ones that allow one to draw upon as case studies if you like... Such contexts, due to the sheer nature of their exsistence, are often surrounded by high charged emotion and often misunderstanding & dissagreements. Unfortunatley for me, the story I have is not very different to many of the other cases I have personally been able to find.
My Dad, when he died was acting in the role of CEO of Vodafone Qatar, in the Middle East. When we moved to New Zealand, back in 1999, he decided that we were all going to be “Totally Mobile Maher's”, pulling out our landline (except my sister and I did sneakily take it out of the Dial Up connection- standard at the time of course) and even going so far as to move his office outside into the park... A stunt my father was not only guilty of pulling once even, but several times! I do love the Youtube video I found of that first time he did it still, at Vodafone New Zealand (don't you just love the song in this clip!!). We were all together in Adeliade (my home town) just months before Dad passed away, I remember us all sitting around the table hassling him for being a “Facebook Slut”, saying he would just accept anyone who added him etc.
I remember, sitting at the PC and waiting for it to be time to go back to the airport and meet my sister etc... and at the time, I had not even considered that anything was different in this context than any other death I had dealt with before... But I had not considered there was any relative factors, above and beyond the fact alone that it was my Dad... I spoke to him, in the six months or so before he died especially, on almost a daily basis about all kinds of things, but I particularly miss now is our conversations about his work or my research or things like our debates on the topics of social media I happened to be looking at that day.. <3
Almost immediately after getting that fateful call from Mum (just hours after speaking to Dad myself and then him consequently passing away) I thought I was doing the right thing by reporting his death to Facebook and "memorializing" his account. I had read up about the process a little bit and kind of acted on autopilot really, which I really wish I had not done now. However, I also set up an RIP group for him on Facebook too and was uploading photos and video etc with him in it before we were back at the airport. Being a group, whenever someone is added to it, it requires another person to accept the admin- I remember getting off the plane and checking my account and having something like 300 requests to accept them to the group- within a 4 hr time frame- it was crazy!
Within days the RIP page was at about 500 people and I was getting frustrated by the spam I thought I had been preventing on dads wall coming up despite me reporting his death and them deleting every since post he ever made! DO NOT MEMORIALIZE THE DEATH OF YOUR LOVED ONE TO FACEBOOK BEFORE YOU BACK UP THEIR POSTS, STATUSES & COMMENTS...
It wasn't until much much later that I was made aware of services the likes of http://www.socialsafe.net
There is a Blog post from someone in the Facebook team, which I have referenced in this article, if your interested, its actually the comments section I personally found more telling and insightful than the post itself, however it is titled: “Memories of Friends Departed Endure on Facebook” (by Max Kelly on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 03:48)
MORE FROM Sweet As Social Media: The Trust Estrablished to Help Kiwi's Navigate the Digital Migration. We spend time sharing the virtual risks, helping each other with online probs and focusing on "social good" & the potentials of social media technologies.. See more at www.sweetassocialmedia.com or feel free to contact me via phone or email.