Our presentation explores the Facebook Live funeral trend. We offer insights on how people access this technology to express grief, and the benefits and limitations of this technology. Over the years, the funeral industry has promoted livestream technologies for virtual memorials. The trend to use these technologies to remember deceased ones increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We focus on the trend to communicate grief via Facebook Live because:
Facebook has provided funeral directors and lay-people with a free-of-cost platform to hold events such as memorial services. Funeral home employees may charge the bereaved for setting up livestream services in addition to funerary care costs. Likewise, third-party companies (like GatheringUs) can upcharge the bereaved for technology services. Unlike such pay-to-use platforms, Facebook’s Livestream service is completely free for all Facebook users.
Facebook Live offers privacy options that provide people with a better sense of seclusion during their time of grief.
Given that Facebook’s membership runs in billions (at 2.89B in 2021), using Facebook Live as a platform to livestream funerals may be less complicated for the bereaved who can easily access their social network on Facebook.
Thus, through its Live platform, Facebook has potentially created the opportunity to better meet the needs of bereaved communities than other platforms.
However, there are some critical drawbacks to livestreaming funerals on Facebook Live that need to be considered before this technology is used to mediate grief.
While the notion of having to bury loved ones online seems harsh, those who use Facebook as a platform to bid adieu also have to deal with the potential of unregulated Big Tech corporations intercepting their data for surveillance capitalistic purposes.
The potential to control one's virtual social network to prevent them from taking screen-shots of a memorial is lower during a Facebook Livestream; this could result in people broadcasting an otherwise private funeral causing emotional harm to the bereaved.
Despite these limitations, as the trend to use Facebook Live for funeral livestreaming purposes predates the current pandemic, we believe that there is a strong possibility for this trend to continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic era.