In Hong Kong – with one of the world’s most wired societies – your online presence can begin when your earthly presence ends. The highly wired city has built a new website – Memorial.gov.hk – that enables to set up commemorative online profiles of their departed loved ones, according to the NY Times.
The creator of the site is not an Internet-savvy, 20-something college graduate, but the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which oversees public cemeteries and crematoriums. It spent about $128,000 to set up the site.
Users can choose among layout and background music options, supplement information about their loved one’s life by uploading photos and videos, and choose how public to make the profile, the New York Times reports.
Other functions include options for allowing public access to a profile or restricting it to invited friends and relatives. The “owner” of the profile can also choose whether to receive reminders of the deceased’s birthday and date of death and can invite others to browse the page and post messages.
Signing up is simple. Merely provide the name, gender and select the type of service from a drop down menu (“burial in public cemetary”, “keeping remains if public columbaria”) and the site combs through its database to ensure the person is indeed dead and gone. Once established, memorial pages can be public or private, with an access code needed for visitors to pay their virtual respects on some pages.
Not to be left out of the social media frenzy, memorial pages can be posted to Twitter as well as Facebook to be retweeted and “liked” for all eternity.
In a culture that takes respect for the dead very seriously, many worry about the site displacing traditional forms of mourning.
The site, according to the Hong Kong department that conceived it, “is not meant to replace traditional practices of paying tribute to the deceased.” Instead, it will allow people to pay tribute to their loved ones “anytime and anywhere online, in a warm, personalized yet solemn manner.”
It also “enables people to link up with their relatives and friends overseas in paying tribute and expressing condolences to the deceased through a dedicated Web page,” the department said in a statement.
“There’s no need to build a Web site,” said Wu Kwok-kin, the owner of a shop that sells funeral wreaths, favors more traditional mourning rituals. “The government should have put up money to build more public vaults for urns.”
Other critics say the site is not a sincere way to respect the dead. However, Kit Fan, for example, think the online memorial could win over some people. “Those who pass away get something on the Internet that belongs to them,” said Kit Fan as he waited for a bus near a big funeral home in Hong Kong. “But people still need to go to the funeral.” [Memorial.gov.hk via The New York Times and CNN Go]