As of December 1, 2016, there are 1.32 billion (that’s billion with a b) active accounts on Facebook. That’s more than 1/6th of the world’s total population! Between Facebook, other social media platforms and email, people are closely connected and have the opportunity to communicate with one another more than ever before in human history.

It’s only natural, then, that people would use platforms like Facebook to share their condolences with friends and acquaintances who have lost someone they love.

But is it appropriate? According to noted grief author and contributor Robbie Miller Kaplan, Facebook has become an outlet for our grief. However, she notes that writing a message of support on Facebook is different than writing a traditional sympathy card or letter. The messages are usually much shorter and stick to expressing sadness for the loss.

Kaplan also offers some good guidelines to keep in mind when posting condolences on Facebook:

  • Slow down; take a minute to absorb the news and think before you post.
  • Use the spellcheck function to correct errors; then copy and paste your message in the Facebook comment section.
  • If you are unsure from the posting of what has transpired, avoid writing comments trying to clarify, such as “Did your mom die?”
  • If you are unable to make sense of the posts and want clarification, send a private message in Facebook messenger.
  • Make your message more personal by including the friend’s name.
  • An always fitting message is, “Sending my condolences to you and your family for your loss.”

Keep in mind that comments on Facebook aren’t a replacement for sympathy notes. It’s still appropriate to write a handwritten note.