In this day and age, many people use social media to communicate and share information. This can prove very beneficial to the family but may also cause confusion and hurt feelings. Review these tips to ensure social media is used as a support to the family in this difficult time.
Social Media Use by Family and Friends Other Than the Immediate Family
- The first thing to bear in mind when sharing or hearing of a loss on social media is that everyone is different. “When it comes to grief, there’s no one way to deal with it, and no correct prescription, so each person’s way needs to be respected,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent. There’s no right way to deal with death on social media.
- While anyone affected by a death can feel a strong impulse to share the news on social media, such announcements should be left to the deceased person’s closest family members, who should have the prerogative to decide when, what, and how they want to post. Note what information has been included or excluded from that post, then follow suit and show support.
- Get your facts straight. While it seems like it should go without saying, when posting about a death on social media, it’s especially crucial to make sure your information is accurate.
- Be careful with details. If the core group doesn’t indicate the details of how someone passed in the post, there’s some reason they excluded that information. If you happen to know details that weren’t publicly shared by the relatives, it isn’t your place to put that information out there. Let the core group take the lead.
- If you’ve been notified on social media rather than receiving a call, that means for whatever reason that the closest family members didn’t want to or didn’t have time to talk to everyone. So, when acknowledging the news, stick to the medium through which you received the information. Wait and reach out later.
- Avoid platitudes. When you’re trying to show support for someone who has experienced a loss, avoid comments containing trite platitudes such as “They’re in a better place.” It’s OK to write “I’m so sorry; there are no words.”
Social Media Use by the Immediate Family of the Deceased
- When the loss is fresh and there are lots of plans to coordinate, social media can save people time and emotional energy rather than re-sharing the same information in call after call. If you’re on the phone with someone you could get stuck in a conversation that’s not just about you relaying information, it’s also about the other person processing it, and you may not have the time or mental patience for such an exchange.
- Decide whether to keep the deceased’s online profiles. Sometimes a person’s profile page is deleted, sometimes the page is kept up, sometimes a separate memorial site is created.
- Make your own wishes known. When it comes to looking ahead to your own passing, if you have specific wishes about your own social media presence, share them with your loved ones.
- Check your privacy settings. When posting, sharing, or commenting on any sensitive information—such as a death—make sure you understand who will be able to see it. If you’re sharing a post, say, on Instagram and connecting it with Facebook, it automatically defers to your Instagram setting. Or your phone may have a different default setting than your laptop.
Coping with Death on Facebook https://www.rd.com/culture/coping-with-death-on-facebook/1/
Facebook Legacy Feature https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/02/adding-a-legacy-contact/
How to Write a Condolence Message https://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/write-condolence-message/1/
This information was derived from a Reader’s Digest article entitled 11 Etiquette Rules You Need for Dealing with Death on Social Media and can be found at https://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/death-on-social-media/