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Finding ways to mourn online, as the coronavirus keeps us apart


The death toll from Kobe. Nineteen is approaching three hundred thousand worldwide in the US. More than eighty thousand people have died according to Johns Hopkins University. And we can't mourn those deaths or deaths from other causes together in most cases because of stay at home orders and the risk of spreading the virus further so people are turning to digital spaces to gather and remember loved ones who have died and in some ways this is pushing the tech industry to acknowledge death. In a way it hasn't before Sarasota Vez is Executive Director of the nonprofit group. The order of the good death. She told me. Nintendo's animal crossing game is becoming a surprisingly poignant memorial space so many people have been playing animal crossing myself included as a way to cope with the isolation and the grief and the anxiety that we've all been experiencing but what I find particularly fascinating is the many different ways that players have been using the game to create memorials for their loved. Ones people have created altars shrines cemetery. They're all really beautiful. And poignant and personal all qualities or things that we really hope to evoke when we honor someone we love in a real life experience and you wrote this wonderful piece about all the things that we can do on that note to mourn without gathering in person because we may have to for a while. I want to hear about the ideas in that piece one of which was to create a digital alter. I'm lucky knows so each year for them. Where does we create an altar? That's dedicated to our dead and on it we place photos and messages and offerings. So one of the things that I've been suggesting to others is to their own. Virtual alter for their person and people can return to leave offerings or messages on special days. That are difficult like birthdays or death verse more when they're really missing their person and seeing other people's contributions can really help others feel less alone in their grief. Social media has been pretty clumsy about this. Facebook in particular is just sort of like just brutal we are seeing some of these platforms make small changes now to try to help people memorialize people better. Do you think that helps is at least a start toward recognizing that this is a reality. I think it's important for people to preserve these digital spaces as memorials because they're important records of our lives and legacy but in those digital spaces a day will probably come when the number of deceased users outnumbers the living so like you mentioned facebook. The cheerful birthday reminders of loved one. That died images and profiles of the deceased being used for advertisements. Preserving these spaces are important. But there's no practical thinking about how users are really experiencing them in interacting with them. Animal crossing is I think one great example of a somewhat organic development response to a moment that we're in now at some point we will resume in person funerals and mourning but are there things that are happening now in the way that we're memorialising people that you actually don't WanNa lose. You think should stay around. I think that it's really important that we continue to use these platforms by taking things. Online people are often left out who can attend funerals. Memorials or events. They're being included right now and I hope that we can continue to find a way that will serve all of us in the future. Why do you think that facebook is so clumsy at this like? Why is this not something that could have been anticipated by the tech platforms that we use? I mean everybody dies. It's true everybody dies. You know even somebody who deals with death on a daily basis like myself you can hear yourself in in some ways death always when it's expected still even comes as a as a Shock. I think because they're not coming from an actual experience of what that grieving process is like and we still here to so many myths like you know the the five stages of grief that there are still so many myths out there about grief and death and we find it so difficult and uncomfortable and awkward to talk about it. We just don't so we come up with things that are. We think are really cool and innovative and will be helpful and useful but in reality. They're not Sarah. Shabas is Executive Director of the nonprofit group. The order of the Good Death. We have a link to the piece. She wrote about honoring the dead online at our website. Marketplace Tech Dot

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