Live-Blogging Your DeathS

It sounds morbid. But for a lot of people, it makes all kinds of sense.

"Blogs" have been synonymous with "narcissism" for much of their short life. Even given the wide range of informative and well-written and genuinely important weblogs out there, that's still what most people of a certain generation or sensibility think when they hear that word. To them, it's a glorified public diary. But the very things that give blogging a bad rap — that anyone semi-literate can spill his (or, more usually, her) guts and that there's no quality control — is exactly the medium's strength.

Eva Markvoort chronicled her death on a blog, 65 Red Roses. Says CNN,

Markvoort had cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes mucus to accumulate in the lungs. For nearly four years, she narrated an unvarnished blog about life with a terminal disease. Even when it appeared unlikely that she would receive a second double lung transplant, the 25-year-old continued to chronicle life on her blog. The public sharing of one's last thoughts is a way to acknowledge that the end is near, but it also destigmatizes death for others, said medical experts who work with terminally ill patients.

Markvoort wasn't alone in any sense. The blog brought her into contact with a wide group of those suffering from cystic fibrosis and a larger community of supporters, fans and well-wishers. But she's also part of a small genre of people chronicling their illnesses and coming to terms with death, often via websites like Carepages or CaringBridge.com.

Markvoort's mother says in the article that she was initially uncomfortable with the idea of making her daughter's suffering so public. And, while it makes sense that someone of the digital generation would feel more comfortable making her life available to strangers, in many ways blogs like Markvoort's are in stark contrast to her own generation's approach to death. For many of us, death has been sanitized and made distant — it remains a far-away drama, a tragedy, but not a part of life. We hear and talk a lot about "making connections," friends and kindred spirits and romantic partners, all over the world. We rarely talk about the fact that to gain people means ultimately to lose them, too (and maybe this tunnel vision is a byproduct of youth). While the internet was quickly recognized as a means of expressing loss — consider the social-networking outpouring after the Virginia Tech shootings, or Neda's death — the web has been part of our coping mechanism, rather than a platform, or a means of sharing the process of death in real time.

That the internet should help create a new comfort with death is both an irony and, ultimately, could be a very good thing for everyone involved. As one writer, quoted in the CNN article, puts it, "They're not just about hope but also about despair. That is, they're telling us not just what we want to hear but also what we need to hear." And consider this: when Markvoort started her blog, she was in medical isolation. Now, thousands of people are tuning in to a live webcast of her memorial. It may seem too easy — and nothing will ever change the fact that this same level of connection has resulted in unprecedented cruelty, crudeness and, yes, narcissism as well — but I've yet to find a better argument for connectivity.

Death At 25: Blogging The End Of A Life [CNN]