Social Media: Etiquette And Bereavement.
Written by Robert Bush (Funeral Director)
While contemplating a topic for this article, I remembered the difficulties and fears that some families had recently experienced, about posts and pictures that had or could have, been shared online through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Mostly the fear seems to stem from the lack of control that they have over public/social comment.
Legacy Independent Funeral Directors Ltd is a family run business, established in 2010, we are a traditional kind of organisation, but with the growth of social media we have to be mindful of many new issues.
Although the families we had looked after here at Legacy Funeral Directors, in the end, had little issue. The concerns of social media impacted their emotional state dramatically.
It is such a fabulous resource of communication. To be able to comment, or express yourself, in a public way so instantly! We see the heartfelt messages and pictures of loved ones at happier times that truly convey great love and consequently the great depth of bereavement.
At Legacy Funeral Directors, we believe that when posting or commenting in regard to someone who has passed away, it is important to be mindful, your comments can be viewed by the public and similarly their family/friends. How your message/s picture/s may make the bereaved feel is a very important consideration.
Although I believe that the vast majority of the population would never wish too upset or offend anyone who has lost somebody, it is so easy to do so at such an emotional and distressing time.
After someone passes away, we like to let friends and families know that we are thinking of them. Through social media we can send them the modern day version of a condolence card.
When posting or commenting directly to the deceased’s personal Facebook/Instagram account, you should be mindful of the reaction your comments/posts may have. Families tend to focus on a loved ones personal pages as not only a reflection of who they were, but also as a portable, sharable photo album. As such the comments that we make to those pages in condolence should be courteous. Try to refrain from making statements that have not been substantiated yet, such as the nature of how someone may have died, especially in the cases of Coroner involvement.
Photo’s & Imagery
We all have those magic mobiles phones with the ability to take pictures anywhere we are and document many aspects of our lives and experiences. Legacy Funeral Directors recommend that if photo’s/selfies are taken at funerals it should be considered if they would be respectful or appropriate. As funerals have become an increasingly more public event, there are more opportunities to accidentally take a picture that at a later time (if posted or shared through social media) may cause upset or offence.
Unless under explicit instruction to do so from the deceased’s immediate family, we believe that taking images or sharing images of the deceased resting at a funeral home, or pictures of grieving family members would be unacceptable.
Exceptions to this would be a professional funeral photographer employed by the family directly.
Although many aspects of funerals are recorded, from balloon and dove releases, arrival of horse drawn and vintage hearses and much more besides, please be considerate of others feelings before taking or sharing those images.
It is still usual to see a formal funeral notice in the local newspaper, informing the public of who has passed away and when/where the funeral service will be. Sometimes the details are to be kept private by family request and as such discretion is important. Sometimes, families would like a private quiet funeral service and the advent of social media has been known to hinder this considerably.
It would be sensible to assume that funeral details may change as arrangements are being made. Therefore until the date/time or other aspects have been announced by the immediate family either online or in the local newspaper, it should not be shared by others. Incorrect information can cause not only stress and confusion but also prompt people to book the wrong day off work to attend and much more.
If you are not sure if the arrangements have been finalised or if the families wish for the details to be made public, we recommend contacting your funeral director for clarification.
In conclusion, however amazing and effective social media is at bringing us all together, it is so very important that we take the time to think! Is this photo/comment appropriate? Will my comments be read the way I mean it to be read? More importantly, how you are feeling in yourself, how you may or may not be coping, your comments/posts could have a deeper impact than you realise. Please be careful and respectful.