Selfies at Funerals: Mourning and Presencing on Social Media Platforms

University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Communication, 2015, 9 pp. 1818 - 1831
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In late 2013, the journalist and social commentator Jason Feifer created an Internet sensation when his Tumblr blog Selfies at Funerals went viral (Feifer, 2013a). On October 29, Feifer posted 20 images selected from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, the result of “social media curiosity” and a search of the terms “#selfie” and “#funeral” on these platforms. The images all featured young people “turning their cellphone cameras on themselves during one of life’s most solemn moments” (Clark-Flory, 2013, para. 1). Condemnation of these photographs quickly flooded online discussions and mass media outlets, and the debate was typical of wider discourses around the selfie at the time (as noted in the introduction to this issue). However, the funeral selfie was taken as one of the most debased forms, alongside other so-called inappropriate selfies documented by Feifer, such as “selfies at serious places” and “selfies with homeless people.” For many public commentators these images typified the superficial nature of young digital media users and epitomized their vanity, conceit, and lack of respect (Jolivet, 2013; Moss, 2013; Wells, 2013). Others suggested that social media had emptied death of meaning, solemnity, and gravitas—with one prominent online publication running the doomsday banner headline “Funeral Selfies Are The Latest Evidence Apocalypse Can’t Come Soon Enough” (The Huffington Post, 2013).
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