What is okay to post on social media and what is tacky? How can I commemorate a special moment in my life without pandering to an internet audience? These are questions that society is considering almost constantly as our technological revolution settles in. The advent of the internet and, specifically, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, has changed the arena for communication and, therefore, common courtesy. Where is the line of appropriateness when it comes to social media and funerals?
Many people are using social media as a resource to spread the word when a loved one dies. With online obituary sites like Legacy.com, not to mention the digital news outlets of local and national newspapers, this use of the web makes sense. Putting your loved one’s legacy out there is acceptable and encouraged, but remember that once something exists on the internet, there’s no going back. Writing an appropriate obituary can be a challenge in itself (see previous posts for help on that subject), but the good news is there’s really no difference in how we write an obituary for the paper and how we write an obituary for the internet. You should not hesitate to post an obituary or a link to one on social media—just be aware that social media opens up opportunities for others to comment. We recommend supervising those comments and deleting any inflammatory or negative reactions.
We’ve been asked several times if it’s appropriate to use hashtags to group funeral or memory photos on social media. It’s common to dictate a specific hashtag for gatherings like weddings or reunions, but it’s starting to become common to group young people’s funeral and memory photos this way as well. For example, when we were planning the unexpected funeral service for a local high school senior who died of a sudden brain aneurism, her lacrosse team friends posted a picture a day for the week after she died and tagged each picture with #missyoumarley. The family then collected these photos that had been posted by friends, teammates, and school peers they weren’t even familiar with, and put them together into an incredible slideshow at her funeral.
Is it okay to post a picture of yourself at a funeral? What about taking a selfie with the open casket? These questions are hard to answer. We would always encourage asking permission to post—especially if those pictures include anything personal to the deceased or the body of the deceased itself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to commemorate a gathering of people who shared the same loved one and want to pay tribute to that person, but there are considerations not to forget. For example, is your photo striking the appropriate tone for the occasion? Is anyone else in the photo, even in the background, who may not want to be a part of a public post? Is there any way your post could be interpreted as minimizing someone else’s grief? Carefully consider each photo you take, especially if it will be posted on social media.