It can also offer proof of the bad news. WhenAngelika Gomez, a 23-year-old editor at the Bay Area–based youth literary journal YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, saw her high-school friend Skyler Stewart identified as a gang-shooting victim in the local newspaper, she looked him up on MySpace for confirmation. “I can mourn him without having to go to his viewing or funeral, where I would have felt out of place as an acquaintance from high school,” she explained in a piece for Pacific New Service’s New America Media, a sister publication of YO!

MySpace’s current membership is more than 64 million, and in a population that large, people inevitably die. But the site is not scanning the obituaries, and it doesn’t cancel accounts that have been inactive. Their creators can thus live on indefinitely, as long as their sites don’t violate MySpace’s “terms of use,” according to a company spokesperson.

The site’s role in grieving has also given birth to a kind of hydra-headed MySpace death culture, mostly colonized by complete strangers to the people who are now gone. College freshman Taylor Behl, who died last year in Virginia, has at least three MySpace memorials in her honorcreated by people she didn’t know. Orange County teenager Joshua Ballard left a suicide note last November in the form of a MySpace bulletin — the site’s equivalent of a mass mailing — and has since become Internet infamous, sparking nasty flaming wars, online harassment of his friends, and mocking spoofs. There’s even a LiveJournal community and spinoff Web site, MyDeathSpace, that compulsively aggregates links to profiles of people who have died, along with relevant news reports and cartoon icons depicting their cause of death.

A good part of many people’s lives are spent on MySpace. And so, too, are some of their deaths.

From concern to grief
UNFORGETTABLE: Taylor Behl last logged into her MySpace account on September 4, 2005, the day she disappeared. Friends still leave her messages.You can view pictures of Taylor Behl on her MySpace profile. Almond eyes, olive skin, and blond-highlighted dark hair she was beautiful. A freshman business major at Virginia Commonwealth University, the 17-year-old liked romantic movies (Before Sunrise, When Harry Met Sally, Romeo and Juliet), films starring Johnny Depp (Chocolat, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?), and an eclectic assortment of music (the Hives, Edith Piaf, Lou Bega). She wanted to meet “someone who is kind.”

Behl left her dorm late at night on September 5, 2005, to give a new roommate privacy with a male guest. She never came back. Her roommates didn’t know Behl that well, so they didn’t know if the disappearance was unusual, and they didn’t report her missing for a couple of days.

On September 8, one friend posted to Behl’s MySpace page: “Taylor, come back. :( ”

On September20, another wrote: “hey babe, if you don’t come back. look at all these people who are going to miss you  :( please come home safely hun, please.”

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