Jan 07, 2009, 11:58AM

"He belongs to the Internet now"

Though over a year old, the author makes an argument that I doubt will be refuted: the Internet is a terrible place to funnel grief to a deceased family member or friend.

There it is:

On the Internet, mourning has surreal or even sanctimonious undertones, especially for those who only knew the deceased as a web presence. It could be because emails and blogs are the worst places to communicate sincerity. You can easily alt-tab from a deceased person’s website to view “LOLcats,” or you might get an instant message “ZOMG, I got sooo drunk last nite.” The time-shifts that are the natural web-crawling experience prevent us from ever really dwelling on a tragic experience.

Some people use morbid humor as a way to enhance the strangeness of a dead person’s web presence. But on the web, tactless humor effortlessly transitions into cruelty. In 2005, Joshua Ballard posted a Myspace bulletin, viewable to all of his friends, informing them of his impending self-inflicted death:

Date: Nov 29, 2005 11:14 AM Subject: do me a favore…. Body: call the police. address: 27802 Abadejo, Mission Viejo, CA 92692. tell them to go down the hall to the bathrooom. im soo sorry <3

Since Ballard’s suicide, other Myspace users cut-and-pasted his message, reposting it ad verbatim. YTMND.com appallingly approached his suicide as just another meme, creating mocking Flash animations with his photograph. The Boston Phoenix reported on a battle that waged between YTMND hackers and Ballard’s friends for control over his Myspace page. One of his friends received an email, instructing her to give up, as “He belongs to the internet now.”


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