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This article was published on December 5, 2007, putting the ’emo’ in social media, putting the ’emo’ in social media
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
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Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform. is a social tribute network that offers people the opportunity to honor the lives of their deceased loved ones. Its founders, Todd Wilkinson and Richard Derks, are calling themselves emo-social pioneers. After a fancy diner at Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten‘s house in downtown Amsterdam, I had the chance to ask Richard Derks some questions about this new term.

“Emo stands for emotion. We believe that social networks need more emotion in order to gain relevance. In our network that is remembering your loved ones”, Derks explains. He and Wilkinson came up with the idea after the death of Wilkinsons’ mother. Friends and family told him stories he had never heard before, making him realize that he didn’t know his mother that well. Inspired by this event, Derks and Wilkinson started thinking of a way to share memories with others. The result was Respectance.

Derks: “We’ve aimed at the American market, since we consider Americans most ready for emo-social media”. His most important task is to make American people feel comfortable with the new tradition of starting a tribute for the deceased. “I ask them: why would it end by putting the deceased under the ground? If you’ve really loved someone, you’ll never stop thinking about this person.” So far, America seems to agree, considering the success of Respectance.

To Derks’ surprise, not only Americans are setting up tributes. “Even though we have no marketing activity going on outside the US, 55 percent of the visitors are foreign. Especially in Latin America and Scandinavia, Respectance is really popular. This reveals some pretty interesting cultural differences. For instance, a Norwegian web site for parents who lost their child, advised its visitors to visit Respectance. My American employees were shocked by the pictures of babies, and asked me to remove them. Naturally, I didn’t do that, since our slogan is ‘share your memories’. Everybody is allowed to do so”.

Regarding the success of Respectance, Americans are ready for the ’emo’ in social media. It is questionable though, whether people from cultures where they tend to be more cautious in what they publicly disclose, will also embrace Derks certainly hopes they will, saying: “Everybody deserves to be remembered”.

TV4B did an interview with Richard Derks during The Next Web Conference 2007. Check it out.