How should we use social media around death and bereavement? What should we post? When should we post? This can be a contentious issue so lets look at some points of view...
I think when posting about someone's death on social media, there are a few things to consider. Remember anything that is on social media can get into the public domain - even if your socials are "locked down" there are always ways for things to get out. My first rule of social media is "don't say online something that you wouldn't say and could not defend in person". I know that a lot of people are very open on social media and will not miss a beat, when writing about someone's death. I have a tendency to overthink so this list of ideas may seem like overkill to the more laid back among you!
What do you want from the post?
This is different for everyone. For some people, it is support that they need, some people need to share and get things off their chest and sometimes it is for practical reasons. For us, it was mainly for practical reasons as dad was well known locally, he had lived in the area all his 75 years and knew so many people through his work and his hobby - darts, we needed to get the word out to large numbers quickly. There were so many people that mattered to dad and that thought a lot of him whose details we didn't have.
How soon is too soon?
We did delay announcing Dad's death on social media for a few days. One of the reasons for this was that dad hated anything to do with social media and mobile phones! We were always getting told off for being "always on our phones" so we didn't know how to tackle a post. After talking about it with Mom, we decided even though he would hate it, we needed to do a post. We thought very hard about it and I did a draft first and re read it later and shared it with mom to make sure that the tone was appropriate and that mom approved. We didn't want it to look like an appeal for pity as this was not how we personally wanted to be treated. Some people may want to put something out on social media very quickly - I would urge caution here - just remember there are a lot of people who would not appreciate getting such news via social media and would rather receive a call - make sure that the people that really matter know first! This is especially important if the person who died is not a close relative. We were also acutely aware that we were in summer holiday season so needed to consider the feelings of folk who may be on holiday.
Remember there are a lot of people who don't appreciate getting the first news of a death via social media
Visibility and sharing
Because we were really doing an "announcement" style post, we wanted it to be visible and we wanted people to be able to share the post so we added a photograph of Dad and we made the post public. If the post is more for your own benefit or the benefit of people close to you, then consider how private and use the appropriate privacy settings.
What do you say?
This really depends on you. Do you want to show people how sad you are about a death? Is it more of a factual statement? Who is the post from - just you or do you want to tag other family members. The tone is obviously important - there is a time and place for humour and this may not be it - when thinking about tone, yes this is YOUR social media, yes it is YOUR relative that died but remember the feelings of those who have also lost that person and those who will be reading!
Remember the feelings of those who will be reading
Follow up posts
Important particularly for "announcement" posts as people will want to know when the funeral is so saying you don't yet know and that you will post more info when available may stave off lots of private messages, texts and calls which you may not feel ready to deal with (I know we definitely couldn't cope with unsolicited phone calls in the early days!!)
In case you are interested what we went with...
I tagged Mark and mom in this and set it to public so everyone could see it and so it could be shared so as many people as possible knew to ensure people would look out for the funeral announcement and also to avoid as many awkward meetings in the weeks to come bumping into people who didn't know dad had died.