A few months ago when I had Chris Groves and Ashley Shipley on my internet radio talk show, Digital 411 to talk about social media T.M.I. (too much information), Chris and Ashley introduced me to something I’m calling “virtual wake sites” (VWS). These VWS frequently appear following the unfortunate and untimely death of someone. This person is often times young as well.
In reading about the most recent incident of a young woman in London that posted to Facebook she felt threatened and believed she had a stalker in a number of status updates. now there is a virtual grave site, a Community Page called R.I.P. Emily Longely. This virtual grave site includes a tasteful picture, provides some basic information about Longley’s death and — wrapped in the warmth of teenaged angst — is the poem “Heaven’s Gates.” At the writing of this article, the page had accumulated more than 13,000 fans. The page creator indicated that the virtual wake site “was made with respect for Emily and her family, for her friends and all that would like to leave their messages.”
A few days — not weeks — prior to Longley’s untimely death, Tyler Rhodes, 17, not only said another neighborhood teen threatened him with a knife, Rhodes went so far as to identify the person by name on the world’s most popular social networking site.
Rhodes was slayed by this boy only 48 hours later.
The authorities turned to his Facebook profile page to get a sense of his life in the days leading up to his his untimely death.Those status updates were used to apprehend Rhodes killer, Jah-Lah Tyree Vanderhorst
Community Page, “In Memory of Tyler Rhodes,” features the 15 to 22 urban male recresite uniform — black tank top, gold cross combo. Interestingly there’s another virtual grave site, a Public Figure page. “Rest In Peace Tyler Rhodes 2.1.94-4.30.11,”
What seems to be a common denominator among these sites is that the young person had taken to Facebook in an attempt to seek out help for their situation. What is even more interesting in my opinion when you look at this phenomenon is that with the creation of these Community Pages, there’s no indication of irony of these virtual wake sites.
By this I mean, Tyler and Emily both turned to their Facebook network, likely made up of individuals geographically near and far for help regarding their current situation. Both indicated that they felt their life was threatened. There’s little indication that anyone took their concerns seriously — yet the same individuals that did not take their concerns seriously went to the social networking site to create a place of memorial.
I’m not exactly sure what that says, but it says something. I think it says something about the guilt people may feel for not taking the concerns of Tyler and Emily seriously. These virtual wake or grave sites may also say something about an actual purpose of Facebook Community Pages. (Besides being the best use of a useless Facebook development).
According to Facebook, which introduced their Community Pages last spring, says “Community pages — the pages that link from fields you fill out in your profile — are for general topics and all kinds of unofficial but interesting things. You “like” these pages to connect with them, but they aren’t run by a single author, and they don’t generate News Feed stories.”
So, the question remains, what are they good for and how do you use them? In most instances the use of this unofficial page (over the branded and official page of a brand) has only been able to frustrate businesses and brands that have put in energy and funds to maintain a great looking page for their fans. And now, Facebook has created a way for either Facebook or users to create this unofficial stomping ground.
What do you think about Facebook community pages or the phenomenon of virtual wake sites?
- Is your ‘stalker ex’ still creeping your Facebook page? (eset.com)
- Julie Spira: Emily Longley Can’t Rest in Peace (huffingtonpost.com)
- ‘Stalker’ claim teenager found dead (independent.co.uk)