Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Smile granma, it’s your funeral!

on November 21, 2013

I was reading an article on the BBC News website earlier this month that asks, ‘is a selfie at a funeral a step too far?’ Although at first glance it is easy to think, ‘well of course. How inappropriate. Darn youth of today! No respect!’ However, after actually looking through the Selfies at Serious Places and Selfies at Funerals Tumblr pages the article is talking about I felt very conflicted. Although some of the people in the photos clearly do not get why they would be inappropriate, there are also plenty that I don’t think are bad.

It is unclear to me whether the sites were created as a shaming exercise or just as a social experiment, I think and hope that latter. Certainly it is interesting to look at all of these images collected together in ways they were never intended and without their original contexts. To me there are a number of factors that need to be considered before passing judgment.

Context

This is probably the most important one, and is an interesting lesson to us all, as anything we post online could easily be taken out of context and seem completely inappropriate, hurtful or possibly even illegal. Off the bat you might think that there is no way talking a ‘selfie’ at a funeral could be appropriate. This is partly because of the slang nature of the term ‘selfie’ and the images it conjures. However, after looking at the images it is clear there are cases when it has potential to be entirely appropriate, and even beautiful. For example one of the images, taken from Twitter, came from a tweet that read,

‘Took a selfie with my gran at her funeral trying to image the face she’d pull if she was there! Love you!’.

Without knowing that person I can’t be sure, but it is easy to imagine that they loved taking pictures with their gran whilst she was alive, and so this was a beautiful part of their grieving process. Indeed even if it isn’t a beautiful part of the grieving process it could still be that individual’s way of dealing with their feelings. Which brings me on to my next point, emotional processing.

Emotional processing

I recently wrote a blog post about teenagers working out who they are online, and how it is slightly unfair that this process we all go through is captured and used against them. After reading the post, a friend of mine recommended some brilliant philosophy from Loius C.K., which you can watch on YouTube. Louis talks about how we don’t like to deal with our sadness and so we will grab a cell phone and start texting/ posting to distract ourselves and get some instant gratification from communications/ interactions. This of course plays no small role when people, possibly to deal with a difficult situation (such as a funeral) grab their phone and do what comes naturally to them, take a picture of themselves.

Broadcasting our thoughts

There is also the difference in the ways people experience and engage with the world around them. Due to a near constant use of and engagement with social media, a lot of people, and in particular young people (who may not know any other way) tend to post their thoughts, almost without filter. This could be seen as positive as it means people are a lot more open and honest about what they are thinking. The reality is that most of our thought as humans are not exactly winners. Sometimes they might even be inappropriate, for example when we look at our selves in the mirror before a funeral and think, ‘this day sucks, I’m so sad…but my hair looks AMAZING today! I wish I was going somewhere fancy and not a funeral’. This is barely acceptable as an internal thought, and for me at least is normally instantly followed by guilt for thinking how great I look rather than appreciating the seriousness of the situation. It is self absorbed and most of us keep it to ourselves, so if you remove that filter and post those thoughts online, it’s not going to get a great response. However, I find myself conflicted as to whether one can categorically state this is wrong, or whether we need to accept that this is the new way society functions. With its citizens posting their every thought and learning how to cautiously take the posting of others with a pinch of salt.

Holiday snaps

I am sure there are holiday snaps of people at war memorials, sites of historic atrocities and the like in photo albums across the world. Some of these pictures will be respectfully capturing the moment, and some will be inappropriately smiley holiday snaps. Unfortunately for those who are used to sharing their lives with the world, posting these images online can make you look insensitive. Again this is not necessarily a demonstration of how insensitive and ignorant the youth of today are, it is simply a case of them doing the same thing everyone has always done, just under the spotlight and scrutiny of the world wide web.

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