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Twitter to Announce Deaths, Send Sympathies and Condolences

Updated on July 23, 2011

Twitter Allows Us to Share Our Grief, Sympathies and Condolences

In addition to being one of the hottest social media tools, Twitter is becoming a medium for announcing deaths and sending sympathies and condolences.

This lens started as a way to look at sending ones condolences and sympathies on Twitter on a very sad day on June 25, 2009, the day that we lost both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. One was a more anticipated death, the other a sudden unexpected death.

The two deaths follow Ed McMachon's slightly more anticipated death earlier in the week. It was a difficult week marking the passing of three icons of American pop culture.

As I was writing the lens on June 25, 2009 and the events of the day unfolded, the lens also became a look at Twitter as a way to find out news, announce deaths and connect people in a time of loss.

This week illustrates how Twitter allows people in grief to connect immediately, to share the news, their hopes for a good outcome and then also to share the losses and the sorrow.

In the intervening time, Twitter has become even more of a way for people to share their sympathies condolences in real time with many people posting their RIP tweets.

Twitter Connects During Times of Grief

Perhaps one of the most remarkable outcomes from the new social networking Web 2.0 tools is the ability to connect people instantaneously during times of grief. With applications like Twitter, people are able to send and receive messages almost as they were happening.

Twitter and other websites were broadcasting the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and many others within minutes of the news being reported.

People hear the news and can retweet the news to friends and send their condolences in the growing tweets of sympathy. As noted by Mimi (GrowWear) above, with Twitter "We have no better way of connecting with the family and friends of well-known folks who have passed on."

In time of Loss Twitter becomes a Place for Sharing Grief and Condolences

With the ability to post a tweet quickly, Twitter is proving to be a new way for people to connect during a time of loss.

Twitter allows people to:

  1. Share their grief, their losses and their condolences.
  2. Experience a common loss.
  3. Follow a breaking story about a death in real time.

Tweeting RIP Notices on Twitter

Image adapted from Twitter Bird.

Share Your Thoughts on Using Twitter to Announce Deaths and Tweet Sympathies

Sharing thoughts in this section remain only on this lens. If you want to tweet your thoughts, see the Twitter module.

Do you tweet condolences, sympathies or RIP messages on Twitter?

Supporting Each Other by Twittering Condolences

Part of the appeal of Twitter is the ability to support each other by twittering. The Fail Whale image seemed to work well with one of my favorite grief quotes:

  • We are each of us angels with only one wing,
  • and we can only fly by embracing one another.
  • Luciano de Crescenzo
Image adapted from Twitter Fail Whale.

Michael Jackson's Death Reported in Real Time Online and On Twitter

News of the unexpected death of Michael Jackson put Twitter on overload as everyone scrambled to find out what had happened to the "King of Pop."

As noted by Dean Takahashi of the Ventura Beat "On Twitter's search function, Michael Jackson and "cardiac arrest" are among the top searches, as is Farrah Fawcett, who also died of cancer today. We're leaving in a real-time world. This is proof."

Within an hour of news of his death several key words for Michael Jackson topped TweetStats. Within four hours he was topping most of the TweetStats.

News of Michael Jackson's Death Overloaded Twitter

TweetStats on Michael Jackson

TweetStats from the first few hours and four hours after news of his death.

Twitter Breaks News of Farrah Fawcett's Death

I was following Twitter the morning when it was announced that Farrah Fawcett had received her last rites. Over the course of a few hours the tweets went from people wishing her well, hoping she would have a chance to marry long-time companion Ryan O'Neal to news of her death.

I head the news first on Twitter, probably within 20 minutes of her passing. News was on Twitter before I saw it on Google News. It was an hour after her death before the news reached a top spot on Google News.

RIP Farrah Fawcett became one of the top trends on TweetStats within 4 hours of her death.

Twitter Connects People in One Thought

This is one of those rare days that the we all become aware and one in thought.

So odd that three icons passed Michael, Farrah and Ed McMahon.

Marlee Matlin, Twitter

General Information on Sending Twitter Condolences

While it shouldn't be used as the only way of sending condolences, Twitter is a quick and easy way to send a message to someone experiencing a loss that 'You are in my thoughts' in real time, or soon after hearing tragic news.

Twitter is also becoming a way for people to share in a common loss and in many cases share a common grief. Twitter allows the famous and the rest of us to share our thoughts, our shock and our grief following a loss.

The Twitter Book in the Amazon Spotlight

The Twitter Book
The Twitter Book

O'Reilly and Milstein have provided a user-friendly guide to using Twitter.


Using Twitter to Send General Condolences and Sympathies First

Sending condolence or sympathy messages is a good way for people to initially respond to news of a loss, much like sending an email message.

Etiquette still dictates sending a more formal letter of condolence or sympathy after sending the initial tweet, IM or email.

Sharing Twittears = Twitter Tears

Image adapted from Twitter Logo.

Tweeting Sympathy and Condolences

Image adapted from Twitter Birds.

Examples of Tweeting Condolences

Other Examples of Sending Condolences in Twitter

Earlier in during the same week in 2009 Ed McMahon died. His death continued to be tweeted about in light of these other deaths.

Twitter was all a buzz in the Spring following the unexpected death of Natasha Richardson as well. Twitter has also been used to report plane crashes, cover the events in Iran and other global events involving loss.

Tweeting Condolences for Ed McMahon

Ashton Kutcher, Jon Favreau and plenty of others tweeted condolences to Johnny Carson's former "Tonight Show" announcer [Ed McMahon], who died Tuesday June 23, 2009 in Los Angeles.

Brian Warmoth, Movie Blogs

The Unexpected Death of Natasha Richardson

According to the YouTube Video looking at how the "U.S. Responds to Actress Tragedy" showed the actress story became the second topic users talked about the most on Twitter.

Following the initial reports Twitter messages ranged from updates on her conditions to condolences to the family.

Tweeting Condolences to Liam Neeson

Demi Moore, Jane Fonda and US TV star Martha Stewart all posted messages of support for Natasha's family and sent condolences to her husband Liam Neeson.

Nick Francis, The Sun

More Twitter Books on Amazon

Try to Send a Follow Up Note or Card

While sending a quick tweet with your condolences is a way to connect with family and friends at a time of loss, etiquette experts still recommend taking the time to send a sympathy card, note or a formal condolence letter.

Obviously in the case of a celebrity death, tweets may be the only way to be in touch and send your condolences.

Tweets are fleeting computer messages. Condolence cards and letters frequently become treasured memories for family members.

It will be interesting to see how our ability to Twitter condolences may ultimately impact or affect the formal etiquette traditions of the past.

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What do you think about using Twitter to Send Sympathies or Condolences?

Reader Feedback on Using Twitter to Send Sympathies or Condolences

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    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      I think the use of Twitter to send out condolences is the human need to interact with people feeling the same pain you are. As many of us are finding our closest friends are now on the internet and not our neighbors, it gives us a chance to bang the words out on a keyboard to connect and share our grief with like-minded people. For others who didn't send direct replies to anyone, they may have been just sending prayers out into the Twitterverse hoping someone would say "It didn't really happen. It was a mistake. Someone lied or our sources were wrong." Unfortunately, that did not happen today and people are still reeling from the shock. Whether you liked the people or not, you feel for the families and loved ones. Sorry for such a long response. I guess I needed a place to unload my grief too. Lovely lens and 5*s