Grieving brings us together through healing and reconnecting even when it’s done virtually, such as via our live streaming option for services. But death etiquette is vital when posting condolences virtually via social media.
The informal nature of social media makes it more socially acceptable to talk about death. However, it’s a good idea to be a little more formal than normal when sharing your thoughts or condolences on social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram. Don’t add to a mourning family’s discomfort or sorrow.
Consider the family of the deceased first
If you were one of the first to get the news of a death via a call or text, remember that is not an invitation to publicly post about it on your social channels. If you’re not the one writing and sending the obituary, you probably shouldn’t be the one breaking the news on Facebook.
The devastating loss of a loved one is hard enough. Don’t make it worse by announcing a death when it isn’t your place. If you’re struggling with grief and need to share or relieve it, talk to family members or friends. Then you’re not running the risk of hurting feelings or creating negative situations, such as the family of the deceased getting bombarded with texts and calls.
It’s common to see memorial pages on social media channels, or even family and/or friends maintaining the Facebook page of someone who has passed as a memorial. Memorials like these offer a way to share your remembrance with others, and connect with family and friends around common grief.
Don’t compare someone’s grief to yours
Everyone’s grief is personal. Don’t talk about a friend or relative you lost and say you understand what someone is going through.
Be respectful with your post
You may have had a playful relationship full of bawdy stories, but this is not the time or place to reminisce and share those. Anyone who knew your friend will see these public posts, so be mindful that you’re not causing duress to others with a potentially shocking story or shared private details. Remember, there is a difference between private and personal.
It’s also OK to comment on a memorial post weeks after the death. With social media algorithms, it’s not common to see everything your contacts post immediately.
Don’t include too many personal details
With the above in mind, it’s also best not to go into detail about how someone died or to ask questions surrounding the cause or circumstances of the death. Yes, you may be curious about what happened if the death is unexpected, but those details can come via a one-on-one conversation with someone who shares only what’s necessary to know.
Also, make sure your facts are correct before sharing any details.
Remember that children may see these posts, so be considerate with the language you use.
Don’t “check in” or tag yourself or others at a funeral
This should go without inclusion, but we’ve seen people check in and post selfies from places or occasions of a sensitive nature. Your contacts don’t need to know where you are or to see a photo of you constantly, especially if you’re attending a wake or a funeral. Remember, everything that you do on social media becomes public news, especially where death and grieving is concerned.
Do make plans for your existing social media accounts
While this isn’t specifically related to posting about someone’s death, it’s a good idea to plan for what happens to your online account information when you die. We have an online resource that talks you through each step called Managing Digital Assets Upon Death. Download the resource here