So much of our lives is shared through social media. We post cheerful news about engagements, births, anniversaries, job promotions, and new homes.
But death is different. Death is a solemn occasion, and an emotional one. However, social media can be a way to let people know the sad news and can be an efficient way to share details about funeral arrangements and plans. Announcing and addressing a loved one’s death on social media is acceptable, but just do it carefully and thoughtfully.
Starting the Conversation
First, decide if social media is the right way to make the announcement. Just because you can use social media to reach a lot of people doesn’t mean you should. Did your loved one use social media often? Did they have a large network of friends and extended family online that wouldn’t mind hearing the news this way?
After that, give it some time and don’t post too soon. Wait a day or two after your loved one passes. There are undoubtedly family members and close friends who would prefer to find out about the death in a more traditional way. Make sure those close to your loved one find out in person or by a phone call first. This also lets the family work out memorial service details before you post.
And remember, unless you’re using private messaging features, social media is a public space. Don’t write anything you don’t want everyone to read. Even if people comment or ask questions on a public post, you can take the conversation offline or to a private space if you choose to.
Deciding What to Post
Keep it simple. At its simplest, a traditional death announcement includes the deceased’s name, the date of passing, date, time, and location of any memorial services. An announcement on social media can be just as simple. You may choose to include a photo, too. Opt for an individual photo, because group photos can take the focus away from the deceased.
If a traditionally-inspired announcement feels too formal for your family or your situation, you can certainly include more sentiment or personality in your online announcement. Just remember your audience. Don’t include any details or information that you don’t want everyone in your loved one’s online network to read.
Sharing Memorial Plans
Social media can be an efficient way to let friends know about memorial service plans. Just remember that if the memorial service isn’t public, or if there is a service or time just for close family, make sure you are very specific about the plans. Once you post, it may be out of your control who forwards, shares, and views the post.
Handling the Deceased’s Online Presence
How to manage a digital legacy – all of your online accounts, digital assets, and social media profiles – is becoming an important part of legacy planning. After a loved one passes away, a close family member or friend may need to decide what to do with the deceased’s social media accounts. On Facebook, for example, you can delete the account, keep it active as a living memorial, create a separate memorial page, or memorialize the account. Once an account is memorialized, a friend or relative designated as a legacy contact can perform many actions on the account, including creating, reading, and responding to posts on the page. They can also update profile and cover photos, download content, and request to have the account closed.
Carefully consider how to manage your loved one’s online presence after death. For some people, it can be comforting to use the account as a place to come together online, process grief, and share memories of the deceased. However, maintaining the presence indefinitely may stall some people’s grieving process and keep them from moving on.