[Air-l] Myspace Profiles of the Deceased

Ross Wolinsky ross.wolinsky at gmail.com
Thu Apr 6 13:22:55 PDT 2006

Hello All-

My name is Ross Wolinsky.  I'm a freelance writer currently working on an
article that deals with grieving in the digital age.  It focuses on the ways
that new technology is being used (particularly by young people), the
consequences of making the grieving process public (on public web pages),
and what the phenomenon says about the growing role the internet plays in
our lives.

I've already talked to Lee Rainie on the subject.  He referred me over to
Steve Jones, who then advised me to post details about the project here.
I'm looking to talk to anyone who might have an interest and/or some unique
insights into the meaning of this phenomenon. Below is a portion of a query
letter that goes into a bit more detail.  If anyone has any interest, feel
free to contact me via email at ross.wolinsky (at) gmail dot com.

Thanks, Ross Wolinsky


Last weekend in Seattle a man named Kyle Huff left a party he was attending,
came back with a shotgun, and opened fire.  He killed six people before
turning the gun on himself.  Of the six people he killed, at least four of
them have MySpace profiles.

Now, a few days after the murders, their profiles have become digital
monuments to the people they were.  More comments are being posted by
friends on these profiles in death than when they were alive.  It's not
unique to this incident, either.  Teenagers are using MySpace as a way to
work through their grief, and it's being done on public web pages.   The
flipside is that websites are now popping up dedicated to linking to the
profiles of the recently deceased.   It is a strange phenomenon, and one
that's never been dealt with before.  It never needed to be.

I'm currently conducting research looking deeper into this phenomenon in the
hopes of figuring out what exactly this says about the new ways that young
people are using technology.  I've already been in touch with several
friends of the deceased in Seattle, a PR person from Friendster (responses
pending from Myspace and Facebook), and a founding Director of the Pew
Internet & American Life Project.  I've also been talking to the webmaster
at www.mydeathspace.com, an increasingly popular website that collects links
to these profiles.  The site started as a small livejournal community.  He
says he's now getting 50,000 hits a day.  The article will focus on how
online grieving is symptomatic of larger trends in internet usage, and also
on the voyeuristic aspects of conducting what was once private on public web

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