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Role of social media in death announcements

By Erica Lamberg
Social media is a powerful tool for sharing the news of a loved one's death. But use it thoughtfully lest the news spread before you can tell close family and friends directly. Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

It's become common to share the news of a death on social media. But it's far too easy to trigger surprise, and even anger people who feel they should have been informed personally. Avoid common pitfalls with this advice:

Personal posting

Caution against sharing too many details; be careful and sensitive in your wording. If the death involved your loved one, coordinate any social postings with other releatives. If it was a more-distant friend or relation, hold off posting until the family has made its announcements.

Pay attention to timing

Wait a day before making a social-media announcement. There are some who would be hurt if they aren’t notified directly. The extra day also allows time to finalize memorial and service matters and arrangements. When these arrangements are made, they can be shared via a post. (Here's more advice on how to communicate a loved one's death.)

Understand that social media can be shared endlessly

Social media posts can spread endlessly and quickly. If services are intended to be small or other details kept private, don't included them in a social-media post.  A social media post can be viewed as an open invitation, or uncontrollably shared once you post.

Keep the post simple

Keep the post simple and to the point with the person’s name, date of death and a brief statement about their impact on your life. If you or the family has published an obituary, consider using it. (We have advice on how to write an obituary). Make sure details are correct; double-check spelling and other specifics like the time and location of public services.

Keep your wording general

Whether posting yourself, or commenting on someone else's post, avoid statements like “she’s in a better place” or “his suffering is over.” These subjective thoughts may not resonate with others who are grieving.

Realize that not everyone will see your post

Facebook doesn’t show everyone your post; it uses an algorithm to determine which posts enter your feed. Keep in mind that it’s possible your post will not show up for everyone you hope to notify.  

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