Social media and the modern funeral: Is there a place for selfies at a celebration of life?

Tammy Dermody

Tammy Dermody

Some might say social media has taken over just about every realm. These days, we seem to share everything immediately via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or any other outlet du jour.

And of course, 2015 is the year of the picture: You can’t visit any social media outlet without seeing selfies, pictures at the beach, on the golf course or pictures snapped at Grandma’s funeral.

Yes, you read that right: Grandma’s funeral.

Social media has entered the territory of end-of-life celebrations, as selfies and pictures are snapped abundantly even at these sometimes solemn occasions.

Depending on the family and the experience, social media can be used as a tool to enhance a family’s funeral experience. Facebook has become a convenient and powerful way for friends to learn about a death within a friend’s family. It helps prevent those in our social circles from missing out on important information such as a death or serious illness.

A few uses for social media at the modern funeral:

  • People may “check in” to the funeral home online. This is a way for families to memorialize their day online, alerting friends and family to the occasion in a subtle but telling way.
  • A social memorial page is another great way to remember and celebrate a life socially. A social website is a wonderful tool to share memories of loved ones and begin the healing process. A social website lists all the details of the service and tells the story of your loved one.
  • Hashtags can be a useful tool for people who are coming together for an event, a belief or a funeral. By sharing your thoughts with others using a hashtag, such as #remberinggrammiejones, these memories can be easily accessed by searching for the hashtag during or after the event.

Funerals are an ideal event for creating unique hashtags for sharing personal stories and celebrating a life. Your family can create a hashtag that they use throughout the funeral service and for months afterward. You could encourage family and friends to share their favorite memory or story of the deceased, for example, encouraging use of the hashtag. People at the funeral will be able to follow along, and it encourages everyone to become an important part of remembering a life.

  • Some people use social media as a tool after the funeral in the form of blogs. Many are able to work through feelings of grief and struggle by writing about their experience, finding deeper healing through reader comments and shared experience.
  • If you do not want social media to be a tool used at your celebration of life, communicate this idea to those in attendance. Walker Posey, a funeral director in South Carolina and a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, includes this etiquette suggestion on his funeral home’s website: “Don’t infringe on the family’s right to privacy. In today’s world of social media and technology, it is essential to remember that these tools are a way of showing support and care for the family who is experiencing grief. The use of technology and social media to post anything which may violate the family’s right to privacy or ability to properly grieve must be avoided.”

You may want to consider adding a brief statement about your family’s social media request in the funeral program, or even spread the word among family/friends in advance of the service.

Ultimately, social media is about communication and storytelling. At Walton’s, we believe every life has a story – for some families, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help those left behind to further tell the story of someone they loved and to celebrate a life. For others, it’s not appropriate. We’ll work with you to honor your family’s wishes.

 

In 1986, Tammy Dermody used her education and joined the family business to help her father, Ed McCaffery grow Walton’s Funerals and Cremations into what it is today. A Reno native and Bishop Manogue graduate, Tammy left Reno only to attend Santa Clara University and then promptly came back. A mom first and a businesswoman second, Tammy has carried on her father’s unwavering support for education in Northern Nevada by volunteering weekly at Bishop Manogue High School. Tammy also provides scholarships to Bishop Manogue High School every year. Tammy shares her father’s passion for community involvement outside of the classroom. She sits on the advisory board of  CASA and The Solace Tree, a local organization that helps children and teens deal with grief; as well as the  boards for The Children’s Cabinet, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada and Casa de Vida.

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