We all spend more waking hours in the ‘digital world’ these days, and with 89.4% of the U.S. population online(1), living our life, and indeed our eternity, in a virtual space is becoming an intrinsic aspect of our culture. Culturally the ‘space’ of online memorials is becoming our virtual cemeteries! For those of you who want to create an online memorial, this article should provide you with the know-how to get started and an overview of your options.
What is an online memorial?
An online memorial is also referred to as a virtual memorial. It is a hosted web page or pages to memorialize the deceased. It can include text, audio, image and video content. An online memorial can be created simply as a dedicated page to the recently deceased or can be a fully interactive memorial site, that enables family and friends to post their own condolences and tributes.
How does an online memorial differ from an obituary?
Typically an obituary was featured in a newspaper and was written by a columnist from content provided. It was a more objective summary of the profile and life of the deceased. Today newspapers still publish obituaries, and of course, many are also published online. Staff writers often spend significant time preparing obituaries for celebrities before they have even passed.
An online memorial tends to be a more subjective and emotive tribute to the recently deceased. It is most often created by the bereaved family, or from content provided by the family to the funeral home or memorial website.
How do I know which online memorial company to select?
There are numerous online memorial website companies. We have listed below some of the most popular and best-reviewed memorial websites. It is important to decide exactly what you want out of an online memorial, as this will help you make your selection.
There are different terms and costs associated with setting up an online memorial. Most memorial websites categorize their memorial offerings along the lines of what storage capacity you require, how long you require the memorial to be hosted, and how able you are to content manage the memorial page.
The questions outlined below should help you to set some selection criteria:
- Do you want a lifetime hosting of your memorial web page?
- Or do you just want something that will facilitate family and friends’ participation in the grieving process after a death has occurred?
- What about the storage size for your online memorial?
- Do you want to be able to host video content or make regular updates?
- Do you want your memorial to be password protected and maintain some privacy?
- Or are you happy for your memorial page to be public?
Once you have decided upon your criterion, you will be better able to compare online memorial sites.
How much does it cost to create an online memorial?
It is possible to create a free online memorial. However, this is likely to have storage, if not content, limitations and may only be hosted for a limited period. There are various options for purchasing an online memorial, usually either a monthly, annual or lifetime option. Prices can start from as little as $9.95, with a lifetime membership or one-time payment costing around $50.00.
Many funeral homes now host their own online memorials from their own website as part of their service package.
What kind of etiquette should be observed in creating an online memorial?
An online memorial company will request that you agree to their terms and conditions when creating an online memorial. There is a voluntary code of conduct referred to as ‘The Memorial Code’ that governs the creation of virtual memorials. This was brought about due to instances of inappropriate advertising in the early days of online memorials. (2) The Memorial Code sets out five general principles of stewardship and the key responsibilities of both the service provider and the memorial creator.
In terms of what etiquette you should observe as a memorial creator, the principle thing to consider is that the memorial should honor the deceased respectfully and maintain the integrity and a certain degree of privacy. Identity theft is a real issue in today’s digital world, and it is becoming increasingly common for criminals to target the recently deceased. Read our related article on ‘How to protect the deceased from identity theft’.
Carefully consider exactly what personal details of the deceased and the bereaved family you include in any online memorial. If you are creating an online memorial, ensure you have the consent of the next of kin of the deceased, to the content you are proposing to upload. Similarly, be vigilant about what images or video you add to a memorial. These days many online sites automatically gain copyright to digital images you upload. Be wary of adding personal details to digital images as these can feature in search results, even if you have omitted including full personal details in the text of your memorial. It is probably wise to consider the benefits of an online memorial site that offers password protection.
How are online memorials hosted?
There are several types of service providers for online memorials. These can be summed up as:
- Commercial Paid service – you pay a fee for the hosting
- Commercial Free service – basic memorial offered for free but the site makes revenue from advertising and/or content management
- Charitable service – free or nominal charge
- Funeral Home hosting
- Social Media hosting
Can an online memorial be created on Facebook?
As I have just mentioned above, social media is now becoming a domain for creating online memorials. In fact, in our digital culture, we are all creating our own online legacy every day as we add content, photos and share our ‘likes’ with our networks.
Facebook has had to implement processes to manage how all this data is handled in the event of a death.
A Facebook account can now be turned into a digital ‘insta-memorial’. Facebook now offers the facility to transform the profile of a deceased user into a memorial. Memorializing the account removes certain sensitive data and restricts profile access to only confirmed friends. A family member or ‘friend’ can request that an account be memorialized upon production of proof of death. Alternatively, a family member can request that an account be deactivated and removed from Facebook.
Another consideration is that mobile technology has brought about a new platform for how we transfer digital images to the Internet, and many of our younger generations are transferring and storing their digital libraries on Facebook. Deleting an account (being that Facebook owns the copyright to the digital images) can mean that these digital images could be lost to you forever.
It will become more practical for each of us to leave instructions about the memorialization or termination of our social media network accounts as part of our legacy and living will.
QR code technology and online memorials
Technology is reshaping the death care industry and I wrote in a recent article about ‘Online Funerals’ how QR codes were being employed in the memorialization industry. A QR code chip can now be embedded or attached to a grave marker, which then enables anyone with a smartphone to instantly view the deceased’s full online memorial. This technology is still fairly new but is likely to radically change the whole concept of extracting history from cemeteries and genealogy.
Public vs. private online memorials
I have earlier touched on the possible benefits and disadvantages of both public and private memorials. You should carefully consider which type of online memorial is best for you. A public memorial is great in that anyone can access it and share their condolence messages and memories of the deceased. However, this does make the personal data of the deceased very much in the public domain and archived on the Internet. With today’s issues over identity theft, this can be a concern and steps should be taken to ensure there is no risk to the deceased’s estate.
An online memorial can be hosted and password protected in order that only those provided with the password are able to view the memorial.
Online memorials aiding the grieving process
Bereavement counselors often view an online memorial as a means by which people can work through their grief. They can help the family by providing a means to commemorate their lost loved one, and the sharing process can be a significant aspect of the healing process following a bereavement.
Remembrance, and keeping the memory of someone living on, is an intrinsic dimension of our cultural rituals and ‘story-telling’ legacy.
Fundraising with an online memorial
These days a memorial web page is often set up ‘In Memoriam’ in order to help raise funds for a charity. The online memorial can act as a Tribute Fund, and some non-profit memorial sites offer Tribute Fund Schemes as part of their services.
Reviews of top online memorial websites
There are so many online memorial websites to choose from that it can be difficult knowing which is the best one for you. Be sure to carefully check that the online memorial hosting company you select is well established. Many companies have started up on the Internet hoping to make money at this service. You want to be sure that the tribute company you select is going to be around for years to come. It is very tragic when a family spends time to create an online legacy to a lost loved one, and then the site goes offline and their memorial is lost.
This article on ‘The Top 10 Online Memorial Websites’ by Everplans reviews the pros and cons of ten online memorial websites.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of how to create an online memorial and what you should consider in the process. The related articles below offer further reading about memorial tributes and death rituals online.
- How to create your own memorial tributes
- How to protect the deceased from identity theft
- The Online Funeral: How digital technology can reshape funerals as we know them
The Memorial Code
1 – Internet World Stats
2 – Guardian 2007 Code of conduct for virtual grieving