If you’re on this site reading about loss, chances are you’ve already stumbled upon the viral goldmine that is “Selfies at Funerals.”
It was created in late October by Fast Company’s Jason Feifer, he who also brought you the Tumblr “Selfies at Serious Places.” Coverage of this project has popped up everywhere from the Huffington Post to Business Insider, primarily eliciting comments decrying the decline of civilization as we know it, though Tracy Clark-Flory wrote a Salon post defending the photos as teenagers’ visceral and desperate youthful reactions to death by asserting one’s vitality.
Feifer’s collection shows images of attractive teens with excellent hair posting photos of themselves in various states of selfie — in the funeral home bathroom; in a limo; hugging an, um, marble nude bust of mother and child; and a generally smiley dude in a colorful striped polo with what appears to be his dead grandma laying in an open coffin in the background (we honestly question the authenticity of this one, as who these days is wearing a colorful short-sleeved polo to a funeral?)
And oh, there’s more. Shots of flashing peace signs, pouting kissy lips, and strangely tight and lacy dresses are accompanied by hashtags like #funeralselfies, #hipster, #tagsforlikes, #boyfriend, #gorgeous, #photooftheday. Head. Itching.
Look, we do get a few things about this. We get wanting feel alive in the wake of death (we did it ourselves through other actions, not all of them PG-rated). We respect the selfie as a nascent form of introspection using the smartphone as mirror. We remember that when you’re a teenager and grandma dies, there’s typically a degree of separation that prevents you from feeling the deep, dark grief that you might otherwise experience upon losing, say, a parent, sibling or friend. And social media posts send the bat signal to your friends during a crappy time, eliciting immediate responses from a potential support group.
And there are certainly thousands of other visually unpalatable online experiences that the general public doesn’t seem to judge.
But what’s the deal here, teens? Are you REALLY happy when you’re smiling at a funeral? Do you even know how you’re feeling when you take that selfie? If you’re so focused on sharing yourself publicly in real-time during a complicated experience, how are you managing to process what you’re actually feeling? Once you put this stuff out there, it’s out there forever. And we worry that you might not realize that one day, you might just wish you hadn’t.
We can’t deny hoping this phenomenon represents the smallest subsection of society. But what are your thoughts on this Brave New World of grieving? Tweet or Instagram them to @modernloss with the hashtag #MLselfie and we’ll include them in a follow-up.