Good Morning FaceBook: Happy Friday: Your Uncle is dead

Death is an unfortunate part of life. Inherently, we all know that at some point in time, our parents will die, our friends will die and ultimately, unless we are a British Time Traveler in a blue police box or an ancient Scottish Swordsman, we too will die. I am at the age now where the generation before me is starting to pass on at a more rapid rate. However, when it comes to someone’s death, what is the best way to handle it when it comes to social media?

In the past ten months, I’ve lost two family members and one person whom I considered to be a part of the family. Two of these three deaths I learned via FaceBook. The other, thankfully, I learned of in person.

Today at 2pm, I learned that my Uncle passed away after a 9-month battle with cancer. I knew he was sick back in November when he was unable to make a lunch date with me when I was in his town. I didn’t know it was cancer until I saw his wife post on FaceBook regarding her appreciation for all the prayers as he started chemo. A few weeks later, my cousin (his daughter), mentioned it to me assuming I already knew. I told her I’d found out and expressed how shocked I was to find out in the manner I had.

I knew that his time was going to be short. I knew he would not live to see Christmas. Thus, his death itself was not all that shocking. The manner in which I found out of his passing is what jarred me the most. My cousin had posted on FaceBook her thankfulness today for all the condolences from friends and family during her time of grief.


I looked back at my Uncle’s wife’s news feed (My uncle divorced my father’s sister when I was pretty young, but he still remained my uncle over the past 30 years in my eyes. He remarried several years ago.) and saw that she had posted yesterday afternoon that my uncle slipped away peacefully just before 2pm.


Both my cousin and my uncle’s wife had several condolences on their FaceBook profiles starting soon after the time of his death. I looked through my cousin’s news feed and the first post I saw from my side of the family was from my own mother, posted just after my cousin’s thankful status an hour prior to my actually reading it.

And so, this begs the question: When is it appropriate to announce a death via social media? Better yet, when is it appropriate to express your condolences to someone via social media?  When you need to announce something major, with the onset of social media, it’s easier sometimes to convey the message to a large audience in this manner. But should the family of the deceased learn via a worldwide announcement of their departure (Because, let’s face it. Something posted on FaceBook or Twitter IS worldwide). When we hear the news of someone’s passing who is not a relative, it’s natural to assume that the family automatically knows first and then friends. However, what if there is family that cannot immediately be reached.

As a rule of thumb, one should ensure that the entire family knows before announcing publicly of the death of a loved one. It is considered bad social media and internet etiquette to announce the death of a family member to other members of a family via any internet or texting medium. In many cases, it can be considered rude and rather inconsiderate.  If you know of a friend who has lost a loved one, send condolences privately until you know that all vital family and friends have been contacted.  If you aren’t sure, wait until a formal announcement has been made by immediate family.

When my aunt committed suicide in November, I intentionally held back the news from the public for hours until I knew for a fact that all of my family was aware that she was gone. I even had to delete condolences from my FaceBook wall, fearful that one specific relative who had not returned from work yet and did not know of her passing would see them. Unfortunately, these condolences were actually posted by my uncle’s now-widow.

But in regards to my uncle himself, looking back, I saw condolences from friends of the family within two hours of his actual passing. Granted, a formal announcement was made by his wife immediately after his passing, but hours before his daughter’s family was even aware, obviously.

I found out 24-hours after the fact.

Another cousin of mine (different set of parents, same side of the family) found out of our uncle’s passing in the same manner I did.  She called her father (my dad’s brother) to inquire and it seemed that my aunt did call to advise him of her ex-husband’s passing. It wasn’t until my mom told my dad this afternoon (after seeing my cousin’s status update) that he knew and called my aunt to confirm.

I’m sure the lack of communication regarding the passing of my Uncle yesterday was a mere oversight. Thus, I’m not trying to necessarily insult the situation. I’ll be honest, I did feel that my immediate family should have been notified just as my now sole-surviving uncle was. I’m just saying should the same happen to you, take these lessons to heart lest you have a family member’s feelings hurt. Some things are still best communicated via phone or in person.


About gespurr

Emily was born in Southwestern Louisiana and has moved over 20 times in her life through nine different states. Most of her life was spent in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where she met her husband and had her only child. Both she and her husband are also only children. She graduated from Stillwater (MN) High School in 1992 and from the University of Wisconsin in 1997 with a BS in Journalism. Three years later, she met her husband, George, and they married in 2002. Their daughter, Kathryn, was born early in 2004. She relocated with her family back to Arkansas in 2005 after being away for 30 years. She currently works as a customer service representative for an insurance company and lives in North Little Rock. When not taking care of her daughter she is either cooking, working, cleaning house, sewing, gardening, knitting, crocheting hiking, traveling or spending time with her husband.

Posted on September 14, 2012, in Family & Marriage, Grief, Social and Technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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