Death and Digital Technology – Where are the Startups for the Dying Industry?

Where’s the social network for dead people? Alright, horrible way of wording it. Where’s the social network dedicated to honoring the deceased? A place where we can connect with people who were connected to our friends that passed. A place we can revisit years or decades later that is filled with stories, photos, and memories from many periods of that person’s life.

After a loved one passes, we each have a way of remembering them. Some pull up old pictures. Some resurface an old memory. And then there are the stories that come out of nowhere, from a person we didn’t know was connected to our loved one, who share a story that just about melts our hearts.

The problem is that each of these memorials is disparate. They might be shared with just one person, unable to be heard by everyone who should hear it.

As good as the Internet is at tracking our movements and collecting information on us, it sure is horrible at preserving the essence of us.

Where’s the place we can all go to share our memories of our passed friends and family?

Facebook Memorials?

Facebook seems like the perfect place for this. It is large enough to encompass the population. They allow for legacy account holders to manage these accounts. And people already behaviorally turn to it many times throughout the day. But I’m not convinced that it is fit for Digital Memorialization.

One, Facebook has enough problems dealing with the living (and the fake living) that I have zero confidence in them executing an idea of this grand proportion.

Two, the people who were active on Facebook often have too much clutter on their pages for it to be a meaningful memorial. And the Facebook news feed is already a mishmash of emotions.

Three, Facebook just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t have that appeal I would want in creating a memorial for a loved one.

Facebook (and other digital memorials I’ve come across) have a major problem in that they are here today and gone tomorrow. Someone passes, everyone comments that they are sorry for the loss, and within a week everyone moves on. Everyone except the people who care, who have things to say about that person, who are deeply affected. Grieving is not here today, gone tomorrow.

The thing about grieving (and memory) is that it is unpredictable. In other words, I’m still resurfacing old memories of my Grandpa nearly two years after him passing. These are stories I write in a journal, that I could easily write in a Digital Memorial.

I’m positive that I’m not the only one experiencing this either. Especially for someone as fantastic as my Grandpa who impacted so many people throughout his life. I want to hear these stories and I know the rest of my family does too.


So you need an asynchronous platform that is top-of-mind when the memory of a deceased person pops up. It also needs to be highly accessible and largely networked, so that neighbors and distant friends can participate.

Digital Memorial Sites is about as close as we’ve come to a proper Digital Memorial site. The problem though is that it is designed more for obituaries and pleasantries after someone passes. It isn’t top-of-mind for people to share memories at large or for people to revisit years after someone has passed. Perhaps that is just a matter of marketing and becoming as synonymous with memories as Google is with searching.

Keeper, Skymorials, Remembered, and GatheringUs have some of the right features and all seem to be on the right path. But they lack warm, modern design. And how many people actually know about these?

I don’t bring up this topic just to complain that there isn’t a go-to place for preserving the stories of people after they’ve passed.

I bring it up because the humanist in me deeply wants technology to take a break from commercial endeavors for a moment and create something that helps people grieve and deal with the loss of their loved ones.

Apprehensive of Death

In general, it’s human nature to avoid anything that has to do with death. The idea of death is a burden. Bringing it up in conversation is morbid. Yet, we all secretly think about it.

How we memorialize people digitally is just one defining characteristic of death and the Internet. In 2020, we also need to make progress on how we deal with the digital footprints after someone dies.

Within 50 years there will be more dead people on Facebook than living, according to a recent report by Oxford University.

Researchers say before the end of the century there could be as many as 4.9 billion deceased users floating around the internet, their digital debris in tow.

Bel Trew, Independent

This is a real challenge. This is not an easy job to fill. When it comes to digital technology and death, I think there are three major opportunities (better described as needs):

  • Help people grieve
  • Collect and preserve memories
  • Manage the data of the dead

Honestly, I’m not surprised that there isn’t a proper digital solution to any of these yet considering the challenge of it. But I’m equally surprised that given the universality of death, there isn’t a single digital technology that comes to mind when I conjure the thought of death or remembering the deceased.