[size=18px]MySpace Is An Outlet For Grief[/size]
By Marissa Beechuk, Carroll News Online

Hours after Deborah Lee Walker passed away in a car accident, her father John Walker logged onto her MySpace page to find it flooded with comments from her friends.

"Hey Lee! It’s been a LONG time," a friend named Stacy wrote. "I know that you will be able to read this from Heaven, where I’m sure you are in charge of the parties."

23-year-old Walker loved the beach, listening to new music and making friends through her MySpace account.

On this page she listed her heroes as "my family, and anyone serving in the military-thank you!"

People are discovering that the Web is not only changing long-established rituals of romance, but of grief and mourning as well.

Networking sites such as MySpace, Xanga.com and Facebook.com are altering the ways in which they were originally created for.

Millions of users have enrolled in these online sites in recent years to expand their personal connections and make new and international ones.

But as life is unexpected, some of these young people have died in accidents, murders, medical problems and suicides.

Because of this, many web pages have turned from daily diaries to outlets of grief and loss.

These newly reformed pages often display friends’ views of the interrupted lives’ of their friends.

Though these venues have helped friends, they’ve posed a dilemma for parents.

While some parents feel comforted from having access to their children’s private lives, they also experience unease at the thought of grieving in public.

"The upside is definitely that we still have some connection with her and her friends," said Bob Shorkey, a graphic artist in North Carolina.

His 24-year-old stepdaughter Katie Knudson was killed on Feb. 23 in a drive-by shooting in Fort Myers, Fla.

"Because it’s public, your life is opened up to everyone out there, and that’s definitely the downside," Shorkey said.

74 million people are registered on MySpace, and it’s impossible to know how many of those have passed away. Another alternate site called MyDeathSpace.com has documented at least 116 people who have profiles on MySpace and have passed away.

The company doesn’t delete pages for inactivity.

President Tom Anderson of MySpace said in an email message that out of concern for privacy, the company didn’t allow people to assume control of the MySpace accounts of users after their deaths.

"MySpace handles each incident on a case-by-case basis when notified, and will work with families to respect their wishes," Anderson said.

Friends of MySpace users who have died said they have been comforted from the messages left by others and the belief that their friends might be reading the messages from another realm.

Web pages on social networking sites are personal, and maintaining them has complications.

Amanda Presswood, whose friend Michael Olsen was killed in a fire in Galesburg, Ill., said none of his friends could guess his MySpace password.

Because he signed onto it the day before he died, it’s impossible to accept some new messages.

"There’s a lot of pictures on there that people haven’t seen," Presswood said.

"His parents have been coming to me for help because they know I know about the internet. They even asked if I could hack it so I could keep the page going."

The Walkers guessed the correct password to Deborah’s page and used it to alert her friends to the details of the memorial service.

"It’s a little weird to say as a parent, but the site has been a source for us to get to know her better," Walker said.

On the other hand, Deborah’s mom Julie Walker wrote in an email that the family was overwhelmed by unsolicited email messages from strangers offer cliched condolences.

The strangers also want to advise the family on.....