Am I Allowed to Use My Cellphone at a Funeral?

We are all familiar with this awkward moment. Just imagine someone’s mobile phone ringing loudly and incessantly during a serious and solemn moment. As the person scrambles to mute the phone, you also feel that strong urge to double-check if your own gadget is on silent mode. In most scenarios, a random phone call or message ping is not really a big deal. You may get glares from others when it happens in the cinema or theater. But you could easily brush it off and give a verbal or non-verbal apology. However, when this happens during the funeral services or memorial reception, it can be downright rude and off-putting because it shows your lack of concern and consideration. 

Though it’s best to have your phone completely turned off during the services (vibrations can also be loud), there are some scenarios wherein you cannot do so. After all, everyone in this modern world relies on their mobile device for work and other purposes. If you cannot completely shut your phone off for whatever reason, you must be considerate when using it. If you’re attending a funeral and feel unsure about what’s the proper cell phone etiquette, you’ve come to the right place in cyberspace. Here’s what you must know about cell phone usage during a visitation, funeral, or memorial. 

Keep Your Phone Out of Sight

In this digital age, most adults have a mobile device for making calls, sending messages, taking pictures, jotting virtual notes, perusing social media, checking the weather, and so much more. Thus, it is understandable why you don’t want to leave your phone at home or even in your vehicle while attending the funeral. 

But as a general rule, you must not use your phone during the funeral proper. The alerts or vibrations your phone makes can be very distracting for a usually very solemn service. Besides, it will appear as if you’re not thoughtful and you don’t truly care about what’s going on. Having your phone ringing, talking loudly, or even noticeably texting while the casket is before you can be construed as a sign of disrespect.  

In some cases, it may be necessary to have your phone on. For instance, you’re a doctor on call that may be paged. Another good example is if you left your young kids with a sitter. Hence, it’s understandable why you must be reachable at all times  in case of an emergency. When you’ve got a valid reason, having your phone on hand while placed on silent mode is acceptable. However, don’t browse social media, work, or text while the services are in progress.

Make Sure You’re Discreet 

If you absolutely have to use your phone during the services, discretion is necessary. In case you get an important call, step outside before you answer it. If the services are outdoors, move far away. You want to be completely out of sight and out of hearing distance before taking the call. 

Moreover, don’t fall into complacent with the vibrate mode. Again, keep in mind that vibrations can reverberate in a quiet hall. If your phone is inside your bag, it can make noise as it vibrates against other objects. It is also distracting and not much different than having your ringtone on. Silent mode is the way to go if you have to be on-call and cannot shut off your phone completely. This way, you can still get visual screen alerts and receive calls without having to worry about random noises and notifications. This also applies to your other devices like your tablet or smartwatch. 

Do Not Take Pictures Indiscriminately

Everyone knows that having a smartphone is a convenient way to take photos and videos. However, you should think twice before doing these things at a funeral or other related services. As a rule of thumb, it is very disrespectful to take pictures of the funeral hall, casket, and bereaved family members. You can only do this when the immediate family asks you to take the pictures. 

For some, however, they find it appropriate to take pictures with loved ones after the services. But never do this during the burial proper and memorial services. Take your cues from the family post-services to see if taking pics is acceptable. And if you end up with photos after observing how others behave in the venue, be mindful about sharing them. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re more focused on yourself. It would be a good idea to wait a day or two before you post anything. If you really want to post to honor the deceased, make it a point to share solemn words that focus on the memory of the one who passed away. 

Take Other People’s Feelings Into Consideration

As an adult, it is indeed up to you to make the best judgment when it is appropriate to use your mobile phone when attending a funeral. If you have a valid reason, the bereaved family will understand if you need to step out and take an emergency phone call. However, this is totally different from sitting and mindlessly scrolling through your social media profiles while proceedings are in progress. 

Be mindful and considerate of the deceased’s family and the other guests around you. For the most part of the ceremony, it would be better to keep your phone tucked into your pocket or bag so it’s out of sight. Instead of tinkering with your phone, focus on the service. Make this sacrifice to let go of your phone as this is your last time to honor the deceased. Besides, services do not last long. Instead, show your love and support by paying attention and being fully present in the moment. After all, you will have plenty of time to use your phone later.