OK, first off, before we begin, I didn’t write this.
Well, I mean, I wrote this, but I didn’t write the thing that I’m sharing.
So don’t shoot the messenger.
Also, just because I’m sharing this, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m talking about you. There are plenty of thoughtful pieces out there (you know who you are) which perfectly describe the writer’s feelings about <celebrity> dying without resorting to hyperbole and the exhibition of apparent Munchausen syndrome.
So don’t shoot the messenger.
Those disclaimers aside though, I did enjoy this piece by Alex Proud in the Telegraph.
Oh, I enjoyed it so much.
On Thursday, Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks echoed with the wails of Prince fans who had come together to publicly grieve the Purple One.
In much the same fashion as the reaction to the death of Victoria Wood barely 24 hours earlier, the sites were soon overrun with comments such as “Can’t stop crying, feel so empty. RIP.”
Inevitably, we then had the immediate backlash, where people pointed out that if you are, say, a 45-year-old Surrey-based facilities manager with two children, who had never actually met Prince, mild sadness might be a more appropriate response than utter devastation.
Then we had the backlash to the backlash, where the mourners attacked those who questioned their heartfelt grief. And so on, like ever-decreasing ripples bouncing off the sides of a pool into which a dead celebrity has been dropped.
But ok. I’d argue that it’s not for me (or Alex, or anyone else) to tell people how they must react to the death of these public figures. Perhaps it’s the instant nature social media, and its enforced brevity that concentrates emotions and the perception of emotions. Add to that the narcissism and the egocentric nature of the platforms, throw in the faux-bravado of the anonymous commenter and the general lack of respect that individuals display for one another these days and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect storm, precipitated by the latest celebrity death.
People are over-emoting everywhere.
So you’ve got those “over-reacting” to the news, and you’ve got those “over-reacting” to those who were “over-reacting”. Because:
If your opinion (and the opinions of those like you) have come to dominate the media and the public discourse, then, surely, others are allowed to find this overwrought and tiresome.
Were these people always around? Was it just that we never saw or heard them?
Or is an entirely new phenomenon that has been spawned by social media?
Either way, we’re going to be seeing more of it, and that’s not good news:
Now, God only knows where it’s going to end. We’ve got an awful lot of pensionable celebrities these days and they’re all going to die at some point. Also, how far down the food chain we can take this? If I’m devastated when Kinga from Big Brother shuffles off this mortal coil, is my social grief any more or less valid than the utter emptiness you felt when Bowie died?
Alex Proud takes few prisoners and that column is worth a read.