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‘It was the easiest way to kind of announce it’: Exploring death announcements on social media through a dramaturgical lens

Murrell, A. and Jamie, K. and Penfold-Mounce, R. (2021) '‘It was the easiest way to kind of announce it’: Exploring death announcements on social media through a dramaturgical lens.', Mortality. .


The internet and social media have radically transformed grief, mourning and memorialisation. This article addresses how online death announcements (ODAs) (where bereaved people use social media platforms to share news of a loved one’s death) are extending beyond the role of public death notification previously limited to newspaper-published obituaries. We argue that ODAs are social performances embodying a diverse range of grief responses and offer a significant new direction in death scholarship. We draw on semi-structured interview data with nine people who announced the death of a loved one on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Using Erving Goffman’s (1959) dramaturgical framework to interrogate this data, we argue that ODAs go beyond purely information-sharing devices and are, instead, complex performances which benefit mourners in a number of ways and are governed by tacit ‘rules’ of permission and content. To make sense of this, we analyse in turn the role of, and collaboration between, the ‘actors’ who post ODAs, the ‘performance’ of the ODA itself, and the ‘audience’ of friends/followers who ‘receive’ the ODA. We reveal that ODAs are social performances possessing multiple modalities and reveal the depth of complexity present in grieving online.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:18 June 2021
Date deposited:18 June 2021
Date of first online publication:25 June 2021
Date first made open access:25 August 2021

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