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Is it okay to publicly discuss the death of loved ones on social networks?
Is it okay to publicly discuss the death of loved ones on social networks?

What is definitely abnormal is to bully a person for expressing grief “wrong”.

Is it okay to publicly discuss the death of loved ones on social media?
Is it okay to publicly discuss the death of loved ones on social media?

In a weekly column, Olga Lukinova, an expert on digital etiquette, answers topical questions related to communication on the Internet. Do not skip it if you actively use social networks and instant messengers, or just occasionally send business letters. And ask your questions in the comments!

In my Facebook feed, a blogger is now actively discussing, whose husband and friends died at her birthday due to swimming in dry ice. She literally posted everything on the blog, and used masks to improve her view, and cry in Stories from the intensive care unit, and take pictures of her deceased husband's mother, and asks the subscribers how to tell her children about it … Well, there are two camps: some say words of sympathy while others are being sprinkled with mud. "This is all for the sake of likes and hype, and she will now sell advertising under the death of her husband." And in general: "How can one live the loss, we do not believe you." And they call him a hypocrite and in other words.

What does digital etiquette say in this case? Is it okay to grieve so publicly? Is there any norm here?


What happened

Users very ambiguously perceived how the girl-blogger Ekaterina Didenko, who lost her husband, experienced the loss. The main complaints boiled down to two aspects:

  • The blogger expresses negative emotions too openly and involves his subscribers in this. You can't grieve so publicly.
  • The blogger is promoting the death of a loved one. You can't make subscribers, attention and money so cynically.

What the scandal showed

Russian users have perfectly mastered the language of “successful success” and know how to talk about their victories and achievements and how to respond to such posts. But the language and practice of talking about sad events and expressing negative emotions have not yet been fully formed.

This is confirmed by the survey Poll on the Digital Etiquette channel on the Digital Etiquette channel: 56% of participants believe that it is not permissible to grieve in public on social networks, and 44% are sure that it is permissible. A slight preponderance indicates precisely that the norm has not yet been formed.

Now in the information space, in essence, they are not discussing a specific case of death at a birthday party, but the norm of behavior in such situations: it is appropriate or inappropriate to grieve in public and how grief should be expressed.

The second thing that history has shown is that there are different practices of using social networks and often they do not get along with each other. Some post carefully selected and edited staged photos on Instagram, while others literally exist live, showing their whole life to subscribers. Both of them can earn popularity and money on social networks, but these extremes do not get along well with each other.

What digital etiquette prescribes in such a situation

If no generally accepted norms have yet been formed, then the only thing for which, in this case, the user could be blamed is the violation of someone else's digital space and other people's boundaries. But Catherine does not break them: she grieves and expresses negative emotions on her own page, does not force anyone to subscribe to her and watch Stories.

At the same time, since the tragedy, she has 600 thousand new subscribers. And more questions are raised by the behavior of those people who specifically subscribe to watch someone else's drama, show condemnation and leave negative comments to the blogger. Personal messages and comments about a person already seriously violate the boundaries of another person and directly contradict the rules of etiquette and the norms of politeness. It is significant that 85% of the respondents considered the Poll on the Digital Etiquette channel unethical to publicly condemn a person for grief on social networks. Bullying does real harm, as opposed to public mourning.

Can there be norms at all, how to grieve correctly

Such a complex area as the loss of loved ones, sooner or later, will itself form a request for regulation, because difficult situations are easier to live with when there are clear rules that must be followed. That is why all funeral rituals are so carefully observed in real life. Over time, the concept of living grief will also come to digital life, not as restrictions on freedom, but as help and support for people who have faced tragedy.

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