Social Media Etiquette When Someone Dies

Our always-on digital age makes it easy to share everything all the time. That can lead to problems when someone we know passes. It’s one thing to comment on a friend’s vacation photos, but it’s entirely different when posting about the death of a friend or family member.

Here are some general rules and guidelines around social media etiquette when someone dies, whether it’s a loved one, a friend, or even a casual acquaintance.

Let the family break the news of their loved one’s passing. Often, the family needs time to contact other family members who should hear the news in person and not through an acquaintance on social media. When the family makes a statement on social media, that will let you know when you can start sharing your condolences.

Be extra sensitive. Remember, everyone grieves differently. What might be comforting to some can be distressing for others. Choose your words carefully, as things often get lost in translation or are misconstrued online. Try to minimize the “RIP” posts, because chances are you’re one of many people sharing condolences. Despite your best intentions, it can be overwhelming for the family to be inundated with these sorts of remarks. If you do post something, it doesn’t hurt to let the family know that they’re not beholden to reply. Read more about what to say, and not to say, when someone dies.

Take questions offline. It’s not unusual to have questions about a person’s death, but look into it offline. Those public-facing questions could be unsettling, as well as burdensome, for the next of kin. If the online conversation about a death is too much to cope with, it’s completely acceptable to unfollow or mute the people involved, even if just temporarily.

We all deal with death in our own way. Just be mindful of other people when you’re posting on their social media pages and avoid remarks that could potentially be upsetting to the family. Sometimes, the less you say, the more appreciated it is.