You may be familiar with polite practices when it comes to sending cards or flowers or dressing for a funeral, but now that technology is so prevalent in our society and in our personal lives, the question arises: what rules exist about social media when someone dies?
A Delicate Balance
When should I post to announce a death?
You may want to use Facebook or another platform to announce your loved one’s death—especially if they had friends online that you may not know how to get in contact with. However, imagine the shock you would feel if you found out your aunt or best friend had died by reading it on someone else’s Facebook page! Even though we all use it, there is still something impersonal about social media, and you don’t want to offend close family or friends by not reaching out to them individually. Most people would prefer to find out the sad news before they see it plastered all over the internet. We recommend you wait 3-7 days before posting about a death, and do your best to contact close friends and family personally before the news is made public. Another option is to post after the obituary has been published—this is a good guideline because hearing about a death through an obituary is somehow more acceptable to the general public—Facebook is less official and therefore more impersonal, so it should come after the traditional announcement.
Posting about Other People
What is the social media etiquette if I attend a funeral of a friend or acquaintance?
Assuming you are not directly involved in the arrangements or planning of the services because you are not close family or friends, you will want to be careful how you treat the private moments of a funeral on a public forum like social media. If you attend a funeral and do not know the deceased personally, you should not post about the services using names or pictures at all. It can be seen as insensitive to take photos of any part of a funeral or burial service without express permission. We recommend you put the phone away during these private family moments and focus on being supportive, not spotlighted.
Is it always inappropriate to take pictures at a funeral?
The short answer is no, it is not always inappropriate. Funerals are often a time for family to gather, and many people want to commemorate that with photographs. However, after a loved one passes, others can be particularly sensitive or emotional, and it could be very hurtful to post photos without their expressed permission. We recommend you avoid photos of people who don’t know they are being photographed—especially if they are sharing a private moment with a loved one or with the casket during a viewing. We also recommend you avoid photographing the deceased unless you ask the closest family member for permission. If that permission is granted, we still would caution you against posting pictures on social media.