Death and dying and how we approach grief has always been a very personal matter. But times are changing. The explosion of social media has provided an easily accessible public forum for all aspects of our lives. That includes expressing our feelings on the process of death and dying and how we express our grief.
A recent article by Tony Walter, a professor of death studies at the University of Bath, takes a look at how the art of dying has changed over time and the impact that digital tools are having on the ars moriendi, or the craft of dying.
The past 30 years have witnessed an explosion of auto-pathography: published autobiographies about the writer’s own dying, almost always of cancer. Art photographers also have got in on the act, documenting the withering bodies of people dying of cancer or AIDS, or portraits taken before and after death.
Nobody was obliged to read or view these offerings, but in the UK that changed in 2009. Jade Goody, who had come to fame as a contestant on Big Brother, did a deal with the tabloids and OK Magazine to cover her death from cancer, day-by-day, week-by-week. She wanted to die as she lived, in the full glare of the media. For several weeks it was impossible to go into any newsagent without being confronted with front-page images of a bald-headed Goody on her final and very public journey.
Read the full story: How the digital age has changed our approach to death and grief