Social media can serve as a blessing or a curse when a loved one dies. Their Facebook Wall transforms into a monument of memories, as well as a hub for updates regarding arrangement.
While in the throes of grief, there’s a bittersweet solace in scrolling through their account. You get reminders of their outlook or humor. Before you know it, you’ll be shaking your head and say, “That’s so ______!”
But if used incorrectly, social media can hurt those already bearing immense pain.
Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the basics. We’ll review specific network terms, practical how-tos, and major faux pas to avoid.
1. Understand the Terms of Service
Each platform has their own rules and conditions for handling a deceased user’s account.
- Facebook and Instagram deletes or memorializes the account when a fiduciary submits the death certificate.
- LinkedIn requires proof by submitting the user’s email address and obituary.
- Twitter deactivates the account after receiving proof of death.
If you’re extra diligent, you can track down their entire online footprint. Reach out to niche social networks, forums and websites to update the information or close accounts.
2. Make Announcement via Phone
When overwhelmed with grief, it’s natural to want to make the process easier. But no matter how far we’ve come with technology, no one enjoys learning about a death through Facebook.
First and foremost, when it comes to spreading the news about a death, it’s important to defer to what is sometimes referred to as the “hierarchy of grief.” That means allowing the next of kin to take the lead in how and when the death is announced.
Only when someone very close to the deceased person and the immediate family posts the news or a link to a formal obituary should others assume it’s OK to share the information on their own Facebook timelines.
— Meg Haskell
You obviously can’t contact every connection the person made. However, it’s best to wait a bit before making any announcement on Facebook – especially through the deceased’s profile. Not only is it poor etiquette, it will make unaware connections very confused and uncomfortable.
3. Don’t Post on Their Behalf
Refrain from giving “Updates from Heaven” or other types of posts portrayed as if you’re the person. Although you may find it therapeutic to fantasize about their afterlife, many may not.
No one wants to unexpectedly see a deceased friend pop up in their timeline. No one deserves that kind of emotional whirlwind. Always use caution and wisdom when posting anything from their account. When in doubt, don’t.