Funeral Etiquette: Cell Phones and Funerals
We are asked to turn our cell phones off for movies, theatrical productions, weddings, and school, but what about at the funeral of a loved one? It should go without saying that a memorial service is one of those times when it is best to leave the cell phone in the car or ensure you have put it on silent. An estimated one in six funeral attendees not only leaves their cell phone on, but actively uses it to text, surf the web, or take selfies.
When to Turn the Cell Phone Off
The majority of family members and friends at a funeral should switch their phones off the moment they step foot into the funeral parlor. Any last minute conversations or texts should occur in the parking lot, and the phone should not be switched back on until you are alone or the funeral has ended. This is especially true if you have a distracting ring tone (there is nothing worse than an inappropriate song chiming out as the casket is being lowered) or if you tend to get a lot of communication over the course of an hour.
It is becoming more and more common for funeral officiants to politely ask everyone to turn off their mobile devices before beginning the service. It is best to comply with this request, not only as a way to show your respect for the deceased, but to ensure that close family members are able to properly mourn.
When to Turn the Cell Phone On
Of course, that does not mean there are not times when a cell phone is okay at a funeral. Depending on your situation, you may find it acceptable to use a phone for the following.
- Funeral selfies, a growing trend among teens, occur when an individual takes a self-portrait of a moment from the funeral. (Up to and including pictures with the deceased.) As long as the family does not object, funeral photography is okay, as long as it does not interfere with others’ grief.
- Emergency calls are always a possibility, especially if you have work or kids who need you to check in. Put your phone on vibrate or with a low enough ring tone that only you can hear it, and step outside before you answer.
- Avoid the impulse to text or surf the web, even though these tasks can be done silently and in your lap. Being distracted at a funeral is not only rude, but you may miss out on important conversations or memories being shared by those in attendance.
- If you do need to text or require a minute to yourself (for some, turning to the repetitive motions of a cell phone game or talking to a friend is a coping mechanism), either step outside, go to your car, or find a bathroom stall to do it. Other people might not understand your motivations, so the more private you can be, the better.
- Gathering contact information is also okay to do via phone, but wait until after the service is over. It is common to reconnect with people you have not seen in a while at a funeral, and you may want to collect email addresses and phone numbers. Cell phones are great for storing this information, especially if you did not bring a pen and paper.