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Rest in cyberspace Tom Shields

AN Edinburgh crematorium is offering online funerals.

It is not so the family can see a loved one off via laptop from the comfort of the sofa. It's aimed at relatives and friends in distant parts who cannot make it to the service.

But who is to say that the digital generation may not use the technology to opt out of the social commitment of being there?

So much easier to catch uncle's farewell on the iPad over a cappuccino in Starbucks. Or whip out the smartphone and say: "Excuse me, while I pay my respects to auntie."

There will be, or may already be, an app for the purpose. Cyber-mourners can Spotify their own choice of music. There will be the opportunity to Skype a eulogy.

One of the consolations of being at the disposal of earthly remains is the gathering afterwards. The deceased is remembered fondly over a glass of sherry and a ham sandwich. This can now be done by text, email, or web chat. Supply your own tea and sandwiches.

Access to webcam requiems is controlled by password to ensure privacy. Inevitably, some will end up on Facebook and YouTube. If something out of the ordinary occurs at the crematorium or graveside, your funeral may go viral. You may trend posthumously on Twitter.

There will be drawbacks to distance obsequies. Ask permission to go to granny's funeral and the boss might say: No, just watch it online from your work station. This will be a blow to those who use any excuse for a day off. A bloke I know buried his granny six times but she outlived him and went to his cremation.

The internet changed how we live and, now, how we shuffle off. I wonder if Groupon does discounts on funerals?

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