LifeLinker’s Origins – Part 1
LifeLinker is a concept that evolved from when founder David Rowell’s father suddenly died.
If you’ve had a close relation die, and been tasked with helping with funeral arrangements, you’ll know what it is like. A sudden rush of unfamiliar requirements to be handled, usually at short notice, a desperate need to do things well, and at the same time, a crippling sense of grief that interferes with doing much at all.
Even worse, for David – he didn’t know who to invite to the funeral. His father had lived around New Zealand in a number of different cities and was moderately well-known; but how to find all these people at short notice, and advise them of the pending funeral? It wasn’t just a case of wanting to make up the numbers at the funeral, it was more a sense of obligation to fairly tell people who would want to know, and give them an opportunity to participate in honoring the death of his father.
The cost of Death Notices can rise as high as $500 per newspaper, and these days few people read newspapers, making this both expensive and no longer very effective.
“There’s got to be a better way” was David’s unhappy thought, but nothing happened for almost another ten years, until three events, all close to each other.
David’s sister died, and he found himself reliving the nightmare a second time. No, these things don’t get easier with practice. And again, how to advise all of his sister’s friends, spread around the country?
The second of the three events was when he was observing the annual ‘swap of Christmas cards’ ritual with distant friends. One such card he sent to an old school friend resulted in a letter from the friend’s wife, someone David had never met. “Oh, David,” she started. “I’m so sorry, I thought you knew. Peter died in a car crash, some months back.”
Of course he didn’t know. How would he know? And while he felt inappropriately guilty for not knowing, and sending a Christmas card to someone now well dead and buried, he also recognized that Peter’s wife felt similarly guilty. Both of them felt that something important had been lost, and which could never now be fully resolved. “There’s got to be a better way”.
And, a third thing. David and a friend were talking about a mutual acquaintance. “I haven’t heard from Frank in a while” the friend said.
“Me neither. I sent him an email a week or two back, and he never replied.”
“That’s not like Frank. And I left him a voicemail message….”
This went on for a while, and it was clear what both David and the other person were being very careful not to say, but both wondering and worrying about. Was Frank even still alive? How to politely find out when neither email nor voicemail was being returned? “There’s got to be a better way”.
Meanwhile, David was getting barraged with nonsense updates from Facebook ‘friends’ every day. What someone’s child said or did that morning, and then a cascade of ‘oh, how cute’ affirmations. Special deals that he had no interest in, and so on and so forth – you probably have the same experience, too. Could there be a way the Facebook jungle could be tamed and used for sensible and serious type purposes?
He was talking about this with another friend, who agreed about the problem, and then erupted with grief and anger at how she had learned about the death of her grandfather via Facebook rather than in person from a family member, something she felt to be beyond inappropriate. Okay, scratch Facebook as a solution, then!
LifeLinker’s Origins – There’s More
LifeLinker has been designed to help the living, while they live, as well as ‘after’. Let’s go back to David’s story again.
David has lived and worked around the world, but even if we’ve lived in one town all our lives, the people we know come and go, don’t they. We all have classmates, work colleagues, close family, fellow members of social/church/sports groups, and so on, and for a while, we’re closely connected. But what happens as we (and they) move on? When we graduate and go our separate ways? When they or we leave the company we worked for? If we (or they) move to another city or state or even country?
For David, and many of us, our best intentions of staying in touch invariably fade away, to be replaced with a vague feeling of guilt and disappointment, and perhaps occasional exchanges of Christmas cards. At some level, we remain interested in such people, but we have no way of maintaining a convenient and low-level of ongoing contact. There’s a huge gap between getting five-times-a-day updates on Facebook or Twitter, or no contact at all. We need a middle ground – there’s got to be a better way.
One thing David dreads is the inevitable cycle when he stumbles across an old former friend. The same thing happens every time. The two of them start off with a flurry of information and communication, attempting to catch up on all that has happened in the years/decades since they last were in contact. But all too soon, the happy glow of rediscovery diminishes and decays, and before long, there’s an awkward silence between them once again.
If you’ve done the same thing, and felt guilty about it, don’t. It isn’t just you. These days it is hard to keep appropriately in touch with the people who have populated our past and present. There is a natural limit to the number of people our brains allow us to be connected to – known as Dunbar’s Number. It seems that most people can only maintain relationships with about 150 people. To put this in blunt terms, when we add a new friend or contact into our lives, an old friend or contact has to drop off the other end.
That was never really a problem in the past, but now that we have so many ways to maintain connectivity with other people, and now that we have so many more people come into and go on out of our lives again, we quickly max out our limit. David again felt that rather than just losing touch with people entirely, there’s got to be a better way.
That is another problem LifeLinker solves. A way to allow people to maintain a low-level of contact. Something better than the tradition some people have of including a form letter in each annual Christmas card, something potentially a bit more personal and tailored for different groups of friends. You’d want to send a different update to fellow supporters of the local junior league baseball club than you might to members of your church group, and so on.
Up to this point, we had been seeing LifeLinker as primarily having benefits for middle-aged and older people. But a young friend, when learning of LifeLinker’s ability to sort contacts into separate lists and send tailored messages to each different list, seized on this idea in a new way. “That’s really cool”, she said. “I can have one list for my parents and grandparents, and give them a filtered version of my life at college. I can have a second for my group of girl friends, where we share private things between us, and other lists for other people, only showing those parts of my life I want to show.” Apparently many younger people are starting to realize the downsides of over-sharing on Facebook, and the future very real embarrassment that such things can cause them when applying for jobs and in other social settings.
Unlike Facebook, LifeLinker is designed to be a closed system, and controlled by you. Only the people you choose can see your profile, and they can only see, and will only be told, what you selectively choose.
LifeLinker’s Origins – Turning Adversity into Advantage
In May 2014, David spectacularly broke his ankle into many pieces (note to all – mowing the lawn is more dangerous than it seems!) and was laid up for several months as a result.
During this forced inactivity, his sister died and he was totally unable to travel to attend the funeral. Surely, he thought, there must be a way to have some type of appropriate ‘e-wake’ whereby absent friends can also in some form share in the commemoration of someone’s life and passing. There’s got to be a better way.
With time on his hands, the vague “there’s got to be a better way” transformed to the first outline of what is now LifeLinker. Flash forward two years of developed development by David and a small team, and here it is.
Sometimes, bad things really do have happy endings.
LifeLinker – now offering you a better way.