Cellphone etiquette for funerals
› Turn off your cellphone before you cross the threshold of the funeral home. Then you won’t be tempted to check your phone during visitation, and there is no risk of it ringing during the service.
› Ask the family’s permission before taking any photos or videos. Also get the family’s permission to post any photos online.
› Selfies with the deceased are inappropriate.
› Make sure all family members have been notified of their loved one’s death before announcing it on Facebook. The family should be the first to know, not read it online.
› While it is acceptable to post funeral arrangements on Facebook, an Evite is not.
› In addition to turning off a cellphone during the service, be 100 percent “present.” Pay attention to the service. Folks continuously looking down to check cellphone screens are distracting as well as disrespectful.
› If a family leaves a Facebook page or a Twitter feed active, don’t write snarky comments or share embarrassing stories about the deceased. The funeral may be over, but the family is still grieving.
Source: CNN, Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post
There's a new trend that's drawing the ire of families blindsided by photos of their deceased loved ones popping up on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites.
It's been dubbed "the corpsie" — a cellphone selfie made with the deceased in the casket.
"I haven't witnessed these selfies being made, but we have had families who became aware of pictures that were posted on social media and it's offensive to them," says Cheryl Franklin Key with John P. Franklin Funeral Home in Chattanooga.
"We try to assist with keeping that out of services here," she continues. "It's gotten to the point where families will speak up about (making any photos) upfront when we make arrangements, asking no pictures at all be taken. We use signage during visitations saying that the family requests no photos be taken with cameras and cellphones."
As social media pervades every aspect of daily lives, funerals were perhaps the last bastion of etiquette whose decorum hasn't been loosened by its use. Especially in the South, where funerals have always required a respectful presence and the emphasis being a celebration of the deceased's life, not yours.
But as Key points out, social media is "part of the culture now. People post anything and everything. Taking photos of the deceased has become, to some degree, socially acceptable, but in most cases it is offensive. Some of the younger folk do it because that's their culture, that's how they document their lives."
In fact, one in five millennials are "OK with taking a selfie at a funeral," according to a survey reported in The Huffington Post. Whether it's a shot of their own body — or one with the other — posting on social media is how they connect with each other, sharing both momentous and minor events in their lives.
So while a selfie beside the casket of a deceased grandparent might seem disrespectful to the elder generations, it's a millennial's way of expressing grief at the loss of a grandparent. However, it's still not the place for those fish-pout poses. Just check the collection of self-absorbed mourners at selfiesatfunerals.tumblr.com or #funeral.tumblr.com.
Recently Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg asked mourners — including several higher-ups in the tech industry — not to post photos to social media from the memorial for her late husband David Goldberg. However, at the funeral for René Angelil, husband of Celine Dion, photos were made of the singer receiving visitors beside her husband's open casket. The photographs were released to media outlets by Feeling Productions Inc., a company owned by the late Angelil, according to Yahoo News.
Still, this isn't to say social media doesn't have a place in the funeral industry; in fact, local funeral directors say it does and their industry is addressing it.
Brad Wilkey, managing partner at Lane Funeral Home, says Facebook pages allow the funeral home and families to get word out quickly and are a means to share information with out-of-town family and friends unable to read the arrangements in a local paper.
"Facebook seems to be the leading thing right now — elderly to younger people. It's easier to get the word out especially if it's a quick situation or it involves a tragedy and the family isn't taking phone calls," says Wilkey.
He notes that Lane Funeral Home is currently undergoing renovations and social media updates are regularly posted on these improvements.
"After we start parlor renovations, we will be posting photos to update viewers," he says.
When Neshawn Calloway's brother, Jerry Bynum, died last November in Mississippi, social media was a fast, efficient way to reach more than 20 family members scattered across several states, she says.
"We have a lot of relatives out of town and a lot of people here," says Calloway, vocal music instructor at Chattanooga's Center for Creative Arts. "The funeral was in Mississippi. Any arrangements we had, we posted on Facebook so we could all keep up to date.
"I also got a lot of positive feedback from people on Facebook saying they were praying for us — they're still lifting us up. A lot of people didn't know Jerry had been in the Army, so there were a lot of positive comments about his military service," which she recorded on her phone to document his graveside military honors.
Recently in Orlando, thousands of people around the globe wanted to be part of the funeral for Campus Crusade for Christ co-founder Vonette Bright when she died just before Christmas, but only 1,200 could actually be in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. To solve the problem, the church transmitted a live stream of the service over the Internet, and mourners as far away as Canada, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia heard the eulogies, hymns and prayers.
"I think for people who can't travel, it's a great gift because they want to feel a part of it," Judy Lewis, who coordinated Bright's service, told the Chicago Tribune.
Lane and Chattanooga Funeral Home offer streaming video of services so out-of-town family may watch on the Internet. Darrin Wolfe, manager of the Valley View Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, says cellphones prove an efficient way for families to document condolence tributes, as well.
"I have seen families taking photos of floral arrangements to make a record of who sent tributes as well as to help them remember the arrangement when writing thank-yous," says Wolfe.
But, he adds, over the course of a year, he might have only one or two ask to make photos of people at visitation or of the deceased.
"Occasionally we will have a family request to take a photo of the deceased in the casket as a keepsake," Wolfe says. "But it's not something that happens often. We don't deny a family that if they ask.
"Every now and then we've had families request to have a professional video made of the service, especially if there are military honors at the graveside, and we outsource that."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.