It’s the latest cultural tut-tutchstone: Everyone’s clucking about Selfies at Funerals, a Tumblr page that delivers exactly what it promises. Here’s a representative sample:
The site is the brainchild of Jason Feifer, a senior editor at Fast Company who told the website Jezebel, “I make Tumblrs to make people laugh. But I do totally understand and appreciate how it can hit a nerve.”
Ya think? The Huffington Post ran a piece last week headlined, Funeral Selfies Are The Latest Evidence Apocalypse Can’t Come Soon Enough.
More benignly, we could chalk it up to the “perpetual adolescence” Joseph Epstein described in his fine 2004 essay: “Youth is no longer viewed as a transitory state through which one passes on the way from childhood to adulthood, but an aspiration, a vaunted condition in which, if one can only arrange it, to settle in perpetuity.”
In that world, selfies are what young people do regardless of the circumstances – especially when no one has told them how respectable people conduct themselves at solemn events like funerals.
But there’s something more going on here: the development of a different relationship to death that digital media are enabling.
Increasingly, we not only experience grief, but memorialize and publicize it as well.
Two years ago an outfit called I-Postmortem Ltd. launched I-Memorial and I-Tomb, described this way in a Wall Street Journal ad.
• Build your immortality. Say what you have to say. Do not leave unprepared. Let www.i-memorial.com become the fully secure guardian of your lifetime, the best place to leave the trace of your passage on Earth.
• Join a Human Revolution. Tell the story of those who have left you. Bring your loved ones back, anytime, anywhere, when you want to cherish and remember with www.i-tomb.net, The World Virtual Cemetery.
That’s a whole nother concept of the afterlife, isn’t it?
(Poke around on the web and it sure seems that I-Postmortem met an early demise – Twitter feed: 16 followers – but that impression could be greatly exaggerated.)
One site that’s absolutely a going concern, though, is Find a Grave, which promises a “virtual cemetery experience.”
There you can Search Famous Graves or “find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials, add ‘virtual flowers’ and a note to a loved one’s grave, etc.
Or you could “Join the discussion!” at one of Find a Graves forums.
And, because this is America, there’s merchandise. The Find a Grave Store features We’re history t-shirts, Find a Grave baseball caps, lapel pins that say ?, and stainless steel mugs that will likely last an eternity
The site also features a hit counter on its main page, which shows 13,755,979 13,971,292 Page Views Today as I type this at 11:27 11:39 PM. (That means there have been 215,313 new visitors to the site in the past 12 minutes.)
In his essay Joseph Epstein noted that “time doesn’t seem to the perpetual adolescent the excruciatingly finite matter, the precious commodity, it indubitably is. For the perpetual adolescent, time is almost endlessly expandable.”
From all the digital evidence, that’s starting to be true for everyone.