THE BLOG
11/17/2013 06:41 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

A Funeral for Online Appropriateness

A recent wave of articles has emerged over the last two weeks about a trend which, in the least, is widely inappropriate and more likely crosses the line of being abhorrent: teenagers taking "selfies" at funerals.

You might ask what a "selfie" is. The barometer in teen (and adult) culture for participation in our right here, right now Internet culture is to take a photo of yourself and post it on social media. You may be doing absolutely nothing, but taking a picture of yourself with your phone, with your arm at a precise forty-five degree angle above your head seems to be a right of passage to being a true social mediate.

Does this sound ridiculous? Well, it is, but the lure of the "selfie" may have trapped even the best of us.

The newest "selfie" trend consists of taking one's "selfie" while at a funeral. Yes, while family and friends are mourning the death of a loved one and experiencing what in almost everyone's lives is one of the hardest experiences one will ever go through, someone's teenage daughter and her friends, cousins or siblings may be in the church or mortuary bathroom taking a photo of themselves and posting it to Twitter and Facebook.

Appropriating Internet lingo at this point seems wholly apropos: WTF.

And, I'm sorry, you don't look good in that photo. You just look like a jerk.

This is the funeral for online appropriateness. The point where literally nothing is sacred, even those moments where we can agree as a society regardless of how you process or recognize death, it is not acceptable.

The irony is that many of these "selfies" are self-reflective: they are literally taken in front of mirrors to capture the image of the individual. While they are fixated on creating the best photo for their Facebook profile, they fail to appreciate their tarnished self image. This is the image that they should be worrying about.

The failure to appreciate that all of this content will end up in their digital dossier is astounding. While states like California will have laws on the books for minors to enact a digital eraser for content they no longer want on the Internet, the ability to control your digital content is becoming exceedingly difficult. While you can think you are Snapchatting, there's no guarantee that the recipients are not archiving your content for future use. Scorned high school hookups and besties with whom one has had a falling out are not the best candidates to be trusted confidants.

Online etiquette and ethics are sometimes the talk of lawyers, but by necessity should be the talk of our entire society. The normative shifts that are brought about by the acceptance of certain online behaviors can be detrimental to not only our legal framework, but also to the creation and maintenance of our online social fabric.