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On-line Netiquette Around Death and Dying

Grief is an individual experience. While you have also experienced the death of a loved one, the person you are attempting to support has their own, individual experience. Keep your experiences to yourself initially at least until you are asked to share.

If you do post, don’t hide behind euphemisms (expired, passed on, lost, etc.) You will not cause any more pain to a grieving person by using straightforward language (dead, died, death). This acknowledges the reality of the situation.

When posting, sharing, or commenting on any sensitive information—such as a death—make sure you understand who will be able to see it.

People have different social media privacy settings, so they may think no one can see a particular post when they can. For example, if you’re sharing a post on Instagram does it connect with Facebook? Does it automatically defer to your Instagram setting? Your phone may have a different default setting than your laptop.

Be careful with details. People hearing of a death on social media may want to get more information, understandably, but your curiosity is less important than the family’s need for privacy. “If the core group doesn’t indicate the details of how someone passed in the post, there’s some reason they included or excluded that information,” says Stef Woods, a full-time instructor at American University who teaches classes on topics including social media. If you happen to know details that weren’t publicly shared by the relatives, it isn’t your place to put that information out there. “Let the core group take the lead,” adds Woods, who points out that ultimately, “finding out the Why and How doesn’t change the fact that someone is gone.”

Be aware of what you post could be viewed by children. “So, if God forbid there was a suicide or any kind of questionable circumstances to the death, be very cautious about how and what you say if you don’t want a teenager or younger child to see it,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

Alternatives exist to the “like” button on Facebook. There are several emoticons on Facebook that may be particularly helpful when someone writes that a loved one has died instead of using the “like” icon. These emoticons and their meaning are open to interpretation. The face with the tear could be used to communicate sadness upon learning the news. The heart emoticon could be chosen to express their love for the person who died/shared the news.

In conclusion “…perhaps the best rule to follow is the Golden Rule: Blog, post and tweet about others as you would have them blog, post and tweet about you.” (Source:


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