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Cyberspace updates mourning experience for Internet-savvy Chinese

01-04-2011 11:27 BJT

by Xinhua writer Yao Yuan

BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Her last online signature was "Fly, fly to the sky!" before a sudden illness took her to heaven.

When "Wuchen Big Forest" opened her QQ list and saw this line under the personal image, now black and white and forever marked "off-line", she often fell into reminiscence about this college-year friend.

And she could not control her tears when she replied to the post, entitled "What's your departed friend's last QQ signature?" (QQ, popular in China, is similar to MSN)

"For our generation, the online ID is our gravestone, with the signature our epitaph," so says the post on a popular Internet forum, tianya.com.

While starting as a casual chat, the post has attracted over 500,000 hits in five days and was followed by more than 4,000 replies which lamented their deceased friends by telling of their last online signature.

"'I'm no further from you than my distance to heaven,' said my little brother's last QQ signature," posted a netizen nicknamed "Love in the Same Summer".

"The signature of my brother-in-law was 'My little Kaikai will be a good swimmer!' before a car accident took him, leaving his six-month Kaikai without a father," posted another netizen, "Listen to Xiaobao".

"He left nothing in his signature," posted a netizen under the nickname "Shidi can't make it". "But his message board is now filled with 'I miss you' written by his girlfriend."

Tencent QQ, China's largest provider of instant messaging services, boasts 600 million registered users. To many, it is a convenient tool to contact friends, as well as a chatterbox program for gossip and small talk.

But when the inevitable occurs, new values are discovered in the program's meticulous record of chats, diaries, and photos, a precious legacy left by the deceased as more Chinese now maintain a diary of their lives in the virtual reality.

"Sometimes when I missed him, I would visit his QQ space or read the record of our chats," said netizen "Snow Town", whose classmate was killed in a road accident last month.

However, he said his frequent program updating and change of computers caused the loss of their earlier messages, and he was concerned whether his friend' s unused ID would be recalled in the future.

Netizen "Liunian" also said the QQ ID of her departed friend, probably hijacked by Trojans, occasionally spammed her with messages containing suspicious links.

But "Liunian" said she did not blacklist that ID. "Sometimes I'm glad to see such messages - it looks as if she was still alive."

China's traditional practice of honoring the dead is now undergoing changes, as the Internet has made it easier to express condolences online.

Personal pages on China's social networking sites, such as renren.com and kaixin.com, for instance, have accommodated more mourners, including many who could not make the trip to the funeral.

They could, instead, pay tribute by leaving messages or purchasing virtual gifts such as flashes of bouquets, whenever they miss their deceased friend.

Shao Yingbin, a college student in east China, said she recently participated in the online mourning of an alumnus she did not know.

Shao became acquainted with Chen Yun after her high school classmates all renewed their "status" on renren.com to lament the untimely death of Chen due to his leukemia.

"The today we're wasting is the very tomorrow he has fought in vain for," said the widely shared motto, which asked his fellow alumni to achieve the dreams left by Chen.

"At that moment I felt very close to him, so I put up the same motto to express my condolence," said Shao.

A spokesman with kaixin.com said after its users' deaths, their pages and records would continue to exist or be handed to their relatives upon request.

But such handling remained contingent, and a standardized regulation on the preservation of online heritages was still needed, she added.

The unsettled state, however, has left some unsatisfied, including netizen "Yanyanyufei", who said the posthumous transfer might go against the will of the user.

"My personal data, including diaries and chats, should be sealed upon my death," she said.

"They must have my permission for any transfer, or at least inform me when I applied for an ID," she said, while admitting that such concerns might be new to both the service provider and its clients.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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