Video funerals welcome virtual mourners
Streaming video has been the online sensation of 2016. From social news site Buzzfeed blowing up a watermelon to Facebook’s hilarious ‘Chewbacca Mom’, millions of people have watched video broadcasts on their computers and phones all over the world.
The technology to turn the average smartphone in to a virtual TV camera has established livestreaming as a real possibility for ordinary people and that same technology is enabling families to broadcast the funerals of their loved ones.
The benefits of letting virtual mourners watch a funeral service online are clear for anyone who is elderly, ill, or disabled and has struggled to attend a service. By making the ceremony available online, the family is giving access to people who want to pay their respects but who just can’t get to the venue.
This is particularly true where families are spread, not just around the country, but also across the globe. James Crossland, who owns a firm that installs and manages livestreaming technology for more than 25 crematoriums in the UK, told the Telegraph that the rise in popularity of livestreamed funerals in the UK can be explained by the country’s changing demographic.
He believes that, with five million Britons living abroad and 8.5 million migrants living here, demand is rising for technology that lets friends and family witness a funeral service without travelling.
According to an article on the Independent website, a growing number of crematoriums are fitting webcams so that mourners can watch funeral proceedings live online. The website reports that around 20 percent of the UK’s crematoriums already offer a livestreaming service, and that a survey has shown that more than two-thirds of funeral directors have been asked about live streaming services.
Typically, the video is streamed from a camera mounted discreetly at the back of the crematorium or sometimes in the ceiling. Mourners are then given a username and password to prevent the service being watched by strangers.
Of course, watching the livestream of a funeral in your own home, or even in the car on your phone, is not the same as being at the funeral itself. And, whilst acknowledging the value of a video stream to those family members abroad, there are worries that livestreams may give people an excuse not to attend services in person and share their condolences.
“Many funeral directors will tell you that a few kind words shared over a sandwich after the funeral can never be replaced by watching the event from a distance via a web-camera,” Paul Allcock, President of the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, told the Telegraph.
For those of use that grow up before digital technology was everywhere, the idea of attending a funeral remotely via video link can seem strange, even disrespectful. But for future generations, brought up in the age of digital connectivity, organising the livestreaming of a loved one’s funeral may become a common part of funeral planning.
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