Media & Press Archive

i-shrine: A moving examination of death in the age of the internet

BBC Radio 4, Friday 21st May 2010 11:00am

When KJ, a 21-year-old Bath University student, fell into the river Avon last summer and drowned, the first indication some of his closest friends had was the RIP messages that started appearing on KJ’s Facebook page. The site became a place for friends to visit, remember and preserve their interactions with him.

As is the case with all Facebook sites, control of the deceased account is never given to anyone else. Instead it is either shut down or “memorialized”, a new Facebook procedure that removes certain details from the site and allows access only to existing friends. Richard Allan, Facebook’s European Director of Public Policy, calls this “a new form of mourning”.

Then there are the sites built specifically to memorialize people, the RIP sites – a growing business. Jon Davies set up, a free service that allows you to make a memorial website in minutes that can then grow as people contribute photos, messages and stories.

Hours before her mum died of cervical cancer, sixteen year old Sarah Phillips recorded a version of one of her favourite songs for her on her mobile phone. The recording was later shared with friends via YouTube. What Sarah and her dad didn’t realise was that allowing the world access would turn this home-recording into an instant internet hit and attract a torrent of messages of shared grief.

A moving examination of death in the age of the internet.

Producer: Peregrine Andrews,
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4