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Long live etiquette: 'Selfies at Funerals' on Tumblr must die

Long live etiquette: 'Selfies at Funerals' on Tumblr must die
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 3:36pm

The Selfies at Funerals page on Tumblr is a collection of, you guessed it, cell phone self-portraits snapped before, during and post-memorial service by the young and seemingly clueless.

The collection was built by Fast Company editor Jason Feifer from images uploaded to Twitter and Instagram and is growing into a Web phenomenon. There are other sites that collect funeral selfies, too.

While stopping to gawk at the insensitivity of a few is fun, it's worth asking what we should do at funerals, in addition to what we should never do (hint: take selfies).

For answers, CNN Living turned to the Emily Post Institute's Lizzie Post, 31, the great-great-granddaughter of the original doyenne of appropriate behavior herself and co-author of "Emily Post's Etiquette 18th Edition."

We asked Lizzie how to dress, what to say, how to keep busy and what to do with that cell phone burning a hole in your pocket during a memorial service. An edited collection of her responses is below.

CNN: When are photos appropriate at funerals, if ever? Are casket photos allowed?

Post: I'm kind of grossed out by the fact that people are turning funerals into selfie photo shoots. I know some young people who have never been to a funeral. There are only a few of them we go to in our lifetime, and I think that's one reason why you see this type of behavior.

I don't think taking a picture of yourself with the casket is a good idea. And I don't know many people who want to take a group photo at a funeral. People are usually not in the mood to have their photo taken that day.

If you're the kind of person who photographs every outfit you wear, it's one thing if you're a fashion blogger who gives advice on this type of thing, but I don't find it appropriate that you're making the cute faces and duck lips and hashtagging it #funeral. "'On-my-way-to-the-funeral-selfie' Here's what I wore, don't I look fantastic?"

You know it's not about you, it's about the deceased, so can you back down on the selfies for the moment?

CNN: Are selfies at a funeral ever OK?

Post: No!

CNN: What basic fashion rules should funeral attendees follow? Are black and dark blue still de rigueur?

Post: Darker colors are still the preferred colors for funerals. However, they aren't the only choice: You wouldn't be distasteful if you were in a camel-colored wool jacket. But you don't want to look like you're in party mode. So leave the sparkly hot pink tops at home, unless requested.

Sometimes colorful clothing is an option. If the deceased has requested that everyone wear Hawaiian shirts, then go for it, but if it hasn't been requested, go for the darker colors.

CNN: What basic phrase of comfort might a funeral guest say to those closest to the departed?

Post: "I'm so sorry for your loss." Say a fond memory that you have. It shouldn't be a long story. Both my grandparents have passed away in the past few years, and it was comforting to hear someone say at my grandfather's memorial service, "He was always so gracious." Something simple, positive and quick.

Things to stay away from: "Boy, I hope he had life insurance." "It was time for him to go." Or "At the end, there was so much suffering."

Those are things people can find hurtful, and they often don't appreciate hearing them. You don't want to bring those things up to someone who has just lost a loved one.

CNN: What's the best way to offer help to grieving people during a funeral?

Post: Don't say, "Call me if you need anything." Rather than saying, "You let me know if you need anything," offer something specific. Say, "I'd love to cook dinner for you next week." Or "Would you like me to come and take care of the kids the day of the funeral?"

You want to make sure you're extending a specific offer of time and place rather than something vague.

CNN: Is it still OK to bring food to a wake?

Post: You want to get a feel for how the wake or memorial service is being set up. Some are catered, so you don't have to worry about that. The host should let people know. In some communities, the bringing of food is healing and comforting. Whether to serve the food or not is up to the host.

CNN: Any special tips on phone etiquette during a funeral?

Post: You turn that cell phone off! That way you're not taking selfies. Turn it off and put it away. If you're on call (for work), put it on vibrate and step away if you need to respond to a call. But this is the time when you need to focus on those who are grieving and you just don't want to be that person whose cell phone goes off in the middle of the service.

CNN: In short, what should parents tell their kids as they head to a service?

Post: Be quiet, be respectful and pay attention.

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