Webcast funerals: Convenient, dehumanizing

[From The Daily Titan, student newspaper of California State University, Fullerton; the New York Times story mentioned is available here]


Webcast funerals are dehumanizing

By Amy Leadbetter
Published: February 16, 2011

The progression of technology and its dehumanizing effects has hit an all-time low.

An article published last week in The New York Times titled, “For Funerals Too Far, Mourners Gather on the Web” by Laura Holson, addressed the recent popularity of funerals broadcast online.

Holson’s article informs the reader that this is seen as a blessing for those who live too far or who are unable to make it to the service. Hence, webcast funerals are seen as a convenience.

All the technological advances our lives are now consumed with (email, text, the Internet, social networks, etc.) began as conveniences.

Our culture has become so complex that these “conveniences” have necessitated their way into our everyday lives. We have become reliant on their expediency, which has consequently led to less face-to-face human interaction.

A website dedicated to delivering funeral broadcasts over the Internet, MemorialWebcasts.com, has a corporate office located in Fullerton but assures they webcast from any location worldwide.

Fullerton’s memorial site has a schedule posted of more than 40 funerals, some which have recently passed, others that are upcoming. Few of these are “invite only,” requiring a password, but most of them can be viewed by anyone who happens to stumble upon their site.

There is a section on the website that goes in-depth about their pricing, making sure prospective clients know that anything is possible. Any number of cameras, subtitles, graphic designs, templates and even pre-recorded eulogies are a likely potential – at the mere cost of an hourly fee.

There are many more websites like this.

While I get the craze of texting, and I can understand the essence of email in today’s fast-paced society that is equipped with deadlines, for some reason I cannot comprehend the rise in popularity of broadcast funerals.

Technology has made its way into every other aspect of our society, but intrusive electronics do not have a place in funeral services.

I recently attended my uncle’s funeral. I can still see my cousins sitting in the front row, holding hands as they cried over the death of their father, and next to them was his mother, clenching a drenched tissue in her hand.

Before taking a seat everyone went out of their way, with tearful eyes, to gently touch them, as if to physically say what they verbally couldn’t.

Even through the silence, an overpowering feeling of sentiment consumed the room, acknowledging the reality of death.

With such hectic schedules, it must have been hard for a lot of these attendees to make it.  But there is no doubt in my mind that they were not regretful when they left the funeral home.

Funerals do not only salute the dead, they liberate the living.

The comfort and intimacy of a human touch, especially in times of suffering and grief, is essential.

The value of a funeral lies within being there to console and pay respects.

The thought of funerals being broadcast desensitizes human life; it takes the humanitarian element out of every aspect a funeral is composed of.

It seems to me that virtual reality is taking over reality itself. A warm encounter cannot be felt through a 12-inch screen in cyberspace.

Webcast funerals are just another way to assure people become increasingly distant from one another.

And while this phenomenon may have its benefits, they are certainly outweighed by the complete lack of regard to the fundamental essence of a funeral and the necessity of human contact that requires the physical presence of mourners.

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