Real Simple's etiquette expert weighs in.

Greg Kessler

Q: Is it acceptable to announce a death over social media? My mom recently learned via Facebook that her best friend had died unexpectedly. The woman’s daughter posted about the death a few hours after her mother’s passing. I was taken aback and wondered how appropriate this was.

J.R.

A: Your poor mom—what a shock for her. Unfortunately this is one of those cases in which a generation gap can feel like a yawning chasm. However impersonal the Internet might seem to folks who are middle-aged and older, for many young people it feels like home: a source of comfort and warmth and a place for easy access to friends and speedy, far-reaching dissemination of information.

Announcing the death on Facebook is, of course, the daughter’s prerogative. In my opinion, the next of kin get to decide how best to express their grief, and in this case the daughter felt that she wanted to share this piece of tragic news over social media. Perhaps she wanted the instant support of friends near and far; perhaps she wanted to avoid making a few of those heartbreaking phone calls to people in her mother’s life.

In a more perfect world, people close to the deceased would find out in person or over the phone rather than in an online message sandwiched between goofy GIFs and LOL autocorrections. It’s not ideal, but it is, at least for now, the way of the world.

—Catherine Newman

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