When tragedy occurs that results in the death of someone you know, you may want to share your heartfelt condolences on Facebook or other digital media as soon as you hear the news. Although your heart is in the right place, publishing your condolences online right away could cause more harm than good.
Before posting anything online pertaining to a loss, first consider:
What if their spouse, child or sibling is currently unreachable and is not yet aware?
What if the deceased’s extended family live out of town and have yet to hear the news?
What if the details you heard are not proper facts?
Would you want to hear of a loved one’s passing from a random Facebook post before their nearest and dearest had a chance to notify you first? I don’t imagine so.
So, when is the right time to announce someone’s passing or share your condolences on social media?
Although there are no hard and fast rules in this regard, these are our suggestions on social media etiquette when dealing with a death.
Let their closest family and friends post first.
Initial news of someone’s passing should always be announced by the deceased person’s closest family in whichever way, at whatever time, they deem appropriate. Everyone handles grief differently, and each person’s process (online and offline) should be respected.
Be mindful of your words.
Once the public death announcement has been posted, pay careful attention to any details that the family may have left out. Then follow suit with your own social media comments and condolences. You never know what a family may be dealing with offline, and want to refrain from sharing potentially misleading or sensitive information.
Keep the departed’s social media profile listed as active/memorialized, or choose to deactivate or delete the account(s).
There’s no right or wrong option on how to handle this -- the best decision is whatever is best for those who are grieving.
If there is a profile on Facebook, then a designated legacy contact can convert the deceased person’s profile page to a memorialized account, which allows friends and family to share memories after a person has passed away. Memorializing an account prevents anyone else from being able to login to the deceased’s account, keeping it secure.
Alongside this, Google offers an Inactive Account Manager feature, and Instagram allows you to memorialize an account, like Facebook.
Other family members may prefer to deactivate or delete a social media profile altogether. If you are a verified immediate family member on Facebook, you can request the removal of a loved one’s account in the event of a loved one’s passing.
Today, so much of our lives are managed and shared online. When preparing for the unexpected, be sure to share any specific wishes about your own digital presence on social media with your loved ones so they can ensure your wishes are met.
By creating a digital will and setting up your own preparations in advance, you save your loved ones time and stress in future, while ensuring your digital assets remain protected.
TIP: Using a password management program like Last Pass allows you to set up Emergency Access features that will send specific passwords to another user in the event of your death. Learn more about this recommended program and digital wills here.