Being on your phone and taking pictures have been named two of the “rudest” things you can do at a funeral, according to The Huffington Post. When reality star Lauren Goodger filmed her grandmother’s hearse and posted selfies at the wake on Instagram last year, fans commented on how distasteful her decision was. One person even commented under the photo: “I’ve seen it all now, Lauren Goodger filming and posing at her nan’s funeral. Is nothing private anymore? What a sad world we live in.”
A funeral is, of course, an emotionally-charged situation, and the potential to upset family and friends during and after the service is very real. With over 2.9bn social media users across the globe and mobile phones now inevitably present at every family occasion, issues of social media etiquette have become an increasing concern.
According to The Telegraph, one-third of mourners admit to taking selfies at funerals, with a majority of the 2,700 British adults surveyed posting the image on social media for sympathy. But are funeral selfies a violation of the deceased privacy? Or just part of the grieving process? Everyone grieves in different ways, and surprisingly posting on social media can help with grieving.
Social support from friends, family and even followers can help cope during the process, as the individual faced with grief and mortality can use the platform to get that support and empathy.
Posting the funeral surroundings on social media also allows comfort messages to be sent to the person grieving, showing support and offering a shoulder to cry on. But private and sensitive posts online also allow people to question the circumstances, which may affect the family and friends, especially at the time of grievance.
Terry Tennens, chief executive of trade organisations SAIF, said: “In this digital age, social media touches every aspect of our lives. We post pictures of newborn babies, holidays, and other life events, so it’s understandable that smartphones are creeping into funerals. But to be honest, it’s quite a grey and sensitive area.
“For example, writing and posting on social media during a funeral service is inappropriate, however, if the deceased’s final wishes were for everyone to live-tweet the event and it is properly communicated to mourners then so be it.”
Tennens adds: “At the end of the day, a good funeral director will be mindful of contemporary trends around social media and will seek to protect bereaved people from any distressing behaviour by anyone with a smartphone. But at the same time, they’ll help to facilitate posts where the affected family have given their permission to do so.
“It’s important that anyone asking to take a photograph for social media at a funeral is honest about where the images are going to be posted and that the family understands that once the pictures are online they could be shared anywhere.”
According to Boca Raton Funeral Home, before posting a selfie or picture from a funeral service or wake, or even checking in to a funeral or funeral home, it is important to consider the following:
Have you waited enough time?
Posting messages about the death of a loved one before the whole family has been contacted is the “worst” mistake you could make. Imagine finding out about a loved one’s death by someone posting online – always consider the family before making any form of announcement.
What does the family prefer?
The family has likely requested that people post on social media at the funeral as the service is about saying goodbye to a loved one and helping a grieving family.
Consider the family when posting about a loved one
Some people keep the deceased social media pages active, to use as a memorial page and allowing friends to post memories on it. If that is the case, be careful about what you post, with the understanding that different family members and close ones will be reading.
Remember, this is not about you
A funeral is already a high-intensity environment, and the most important thing to consider that social media posts after death can be “disturbing to some” – you don’t want to do anything that will cause anyone more pain.
Choose your timing and words carefully and always follow the wishes of the family.