Recently, Steve Buttry posed a question on twitter and in his blog: “Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so how?” The article discusses two particular funerals that were live tweeted and further discussed in corresponding blogs. The full article by Buttry can be read here, but I will summarize his discussion and comments. Funerals were livetweeted and reported on two individuals in particular.
- Deborah Petersen, from Digital First Media blogged about her colleagues’ Twitter coverage of the funeral of a California Highway Patrol officer shot in the line of duty.
- Mathew Ingram of GigaOm blogged about livetweeting the funeral of a friend.
In both cases, social media coverage, including the livetweet of the funeral was seen as beneficial by a number of individuals either related to or close with the deceased. It allowed family and friends who were unable to attend a chance to participate. It was also a fitting form of commemoration for the second example, being the deceased was extremely active on twitter. The negative backlash came from the broader audience seeing the tweets, not family or friends. The main argument was it is inappropriate and disrespectful.
Buttry ends by discussing potential areas where it would be disrespectful, and how to appropriately tweet from a funeral. Bascially, it comes down to respecting the deceased, their family, and the mourning community. Some suggestions include: asking the family for permission, put everything into context, don’t tweet during the service or in areas of active mourning, and explain why you are doing it.
I came to this article from a slightly different perspective than most, and as readers of a mortuary archaeology blog you are likely approaching it from one more similar to my own. I tweet, blog and facebook about death every single day. Social media is one of my primary mediums for discussing, sharing, and learning about the dead. We openly discuss the movement of Abraham Lincoln’s coffin and USA funeral tour. We commemorate the death dates of famous individuals. There were livetweets of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that killed hundreds of people.
When is it appropriate to tweet about funerals? Would you tweet a funeral?
Can social media be used as a form of modern commemoration, and if so which forms? Why is there a backlash against tweeting as commemoration?
Why is it appropriate to tweet about historic funerals but not a modern one? When can we discuss death?
I will follow up this post with a fuller discussion of my own opinion and thoughts on the subject, but I really want to hear from you first!