Tweeting at Funerals: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Mar 13, 2012 | 0 comments

For those who need a reminder about funeral etiquette, using electronic devices during a memorial service is dead wrong. This guest blog post shows why.

10 Reasons Tweeting During a Funeral is Wrong

The recent death of beloved pop icon Whitney Houston set the Twitter-verse on fire, with a surprising number of celebrity mourners tweeting live from her funeral. This controversial move was met with mixed reactions from fans and the media, with the majority believing it wrong to compose tweets from a funeral pew. Here are ten of the reasons why you might not want to mimic this celebrity behavior at the next memorial you attend.

  1. Distracts From the Service – A person in the process of live tweeting from a funeral is, almost invariably, one that is distracted from the service. Though the tweeter’s attention is diverted, it’s also likely to pose a distraction for those around the person.
  2. Inconsiderate of Other Mourners’ Grief – Profoundly grieving for a loved one is one of the most painful things that most people ever encounter. Realizing that someone in the crowd is so detached from the service that they’re sending text updates to their Twitter feed is almost guaranteed to add to their pain and anger.
  3. Disrespectful to the Deceased – Though they’re not aware of it, the act of live tweeting a funeral is, at its very basis, disrespectful to the person the service is intended to honor. Even tweets in memory of the deceased should be reserved to the periods before and after the service.
  4. Creates a Distraction for Other Attendees – The clicking of keys and glow of a backlit display are very conspicuous in the largely silent atmosphere of a funeral chapel. Those in the seats surrounding someone tweeting from the funeral will be distracted from the service, which can create friction.
  5. Replies Could Draw Attention – Sending a tweet from a funeral will invariably lead to some sort of reply; if the tweeter accidentally neglects to put their phone into silent mode, the resultant alert noise could also draw attention and will likely be considered disrespectful.
  6. Funeral Services Should Be as Private as Possible – Even funerals for public figures are largely private affairs; those in attendance should be respectful of this boundary, even in our digital age. Just because a person can tweet from a funeral doesn’t mean that they should.
  7. Content of Tweets Could Create Friction – A slight misquote or a comment that could even barely be misinterpreted could potentially upset a distraught mourner; the time surrounding the death of a loved one is usually filled with high-running emotions that might lead to friction.
  8. Distraught Family Members Are Likely to Be Offended – Even if the content of a funeral tweeters posts is respectful, the act of making those posts during a memorial service is almost sure to be viewed as disrespectful to their loved one.
  9. The Deceased Should Receive Undivided Attention – A funeral should be dedicated solely to the memory of the deceased and a celebration of their life. Nothing should distract from the person being honored in any way; using a social networking site like Twitter, even to share memories of the deceased, detracts from the attention that rightfully belongs to them.
  10. It’s Simply Impolite – Emily Post would roll over in her grave to find people using Twitter during a funeral. Though the etiquette for such things is still largely unestablished, it’s a matter of common sense: using a cellphone or other mobile device during a funeral is just plain rude.

There is a time and place for everything, any use of your cell phone during a funeral service is unnecessary. It is always the WRONG time and place to be tweeting. Respect the other mourners and the person that has passed by leaving your cell phone off until after the funeral.

P.S. – When I officiate at a memorial service, one of the first things I tell people in the audience is to turn off their electronic devices and be fully present. Find out more about Certified Celebrants.

A Good Goodbye