Secondary/High School Content

Activity 3: Explore the positive and negative uses of social media when someone has died

Key Questions

Click the arrow to expand each one or click here to expand all of the answers below:

How might social media be positive or negative when someone is grieving?

Refer to the table below – share the table below once contributions have been made:

Positive aspects   Negative aspects
Keeps you updated with friends   Raising anxieties
Sense of control   Negative comments
Memorials   No immediate support
Information   Not all information is there
Fundraising campaigns   Not everyone is on social media
Comforting messages   shock factor – impersonal way to learn of a death
Brings people together   Can’t control
Sharing stories and pictures   False information
Reaches a bigger audience   Bad hashtags
Free to use   Bullying
Keeps memories alive   Fake feelings and messages
Keeps up with trends   Rumours/presumptions
Easy to access   Longevity/obsolete platforms

How might a post or reply affect the grieving person and/or their family?

It can feel very supportive when people post messages of support and kindness. It can be painful to receive messages which are less supportive, or where the news has not yet been shared by the family of the person who died.

How can we prevent the spread of rumours when someone has died?

When only some facts are known, it can be unhelpful to make assumptions about what might have happened. Giving opinions, or speculation about cause or blame, is not helpful. It is much kinder to be supportive and focus on those who are grieving.

How can we make sure a bereaved friend does not become isolated?

Posting on social media allows us time to consider our response, but sometimes these short messages can be misinterpreted, particularly if they are taken out of context. Not knowing what to say might make it easier to avoid commenting, but this lack of acknowledgement can be very difficult for someone who is grieving. Bereaved people tell us that having contact with others, both through social media and in the real world, is very important to them.

What could we say when we don’t know what to say?

It can be very difficult to know what to say when someone dies and many people (including adults) struggle to know what to say or do for the best.

Acknowledge this with phrases like, “I don’t know what to say” or “I wish I knew what to say” or “I don’t have the right words, but I am thinking of you.” It can help the bereaved family to know that others are thinking of them.

If you knew the person, you might say something about them, such as what you will remember most about them or a particular trait which you admired or noticed. If you have nothing kind to say about the person, do not add anything.

Sometimes you might feel that you want to say something even if you did not know the person who died. This might be something like, “I never met … but I know how close you were. It must be very difficult for you” or simply how much the person will be missed.

What if you don’t know the person who is grieving very well?

Even if you don’t know the person who is grieving very well, you may want to say something on social media. In these cases keep it really simple.

  • I just want to let you know I am thinking of you.
  • I am sorry to hear about…
  • I was so shocked when I heard…
  • It must be a very difficult time for you and your family.
  • I saw your post about… and I wanted to send my best wishes.

Watch message for friends here

Reflection and Support

Remind pupils that emotional reactions are normal and may be experienced at any time. Signpost to how pupils can access support through school and other organisations.

Think about what we can control and what is outside of our control. We often spend too much time worrying about things we cannot control. We cannot change events, but we can make a difference when someone is grieving. They might not be able to tell us, but these small things can make a big difference. Friends are very important when someone has died. Think of three ways to be a good friend when someone is grieving.

Suggestions - check in with them to see how they are getting on, ask what you can do to help them, remind them that you are there for them, try to be patient if they seem a bit angry or distracted, let them know it is OK to not be OK all the time, talk to an adult if you are worried about them, offer to help them catch up any work they missed at the time of the death/funeral.

For staff – plan something together as part of the debrief. This could be a walk and talk or tea and cake after school, or at lunchtime. Signpost to support and check in with each other.