There are a lot of things that annoy me about social media these days. The fact that a single story can find itself on Gawker, Buzzfeed, Boing Boing, The Huffington Post, and then on to the thousands of similar blogs and news aggregate sites makes the internet like surfing a copy machine that keeps spitting out thousands of sheets of something I already saw this morning. Inject this into Facebook and Twitter and you have… well… I picture something like thousands of baby birds chirping endlessly as they’re being fed regurgitated food, which they’ll then regurgitate and feed to millions of tinier baby birds, and so on.
One of the worst habits of this phenomenon is that whenever someone famous dies, the internet takes a moment to line up and then, like falling dominoes, post and repost items mourning their passing. This sentiment in itself is a great thing—showing respect for the loss of life. But let’s just take a moment to reflect on some of those we’ve lost over the years that the internet cluttered your Facebook feed to remember:
- Bea Arthur
- Ronnie James Dio
- Gary “what you talkin’ bout” Coleman
- Davey Jones
- Everyone who died after appearing on “Celebrity Rehab”
- Corey Haim
Each of these folks was somebody’s loved one. But here’s the thing: they weren’t your loved one. In fact, most of these people wouldn’t have even made your top 50 in whatever category they used to create their fame. They were just people whose names you knew. That’s all.
This is not to say that a celebrity passing isn’t worth recognition. Some rose to the top of their profession and changed industries, changed lives, and made an impact on the casual observer in ways as real as a loved one– Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Betty Ford, Roger Ebert. But not the guy you know because he sold fucking OxiClean on a commercial you can remember watching.
And here’s another thing—not every tragic event is 9/11 scale. Yes, it’s terrible when there’s a silo explosion in the Midwest. But it doesn’t necessitate a photoshop of praying hands over a corn field with the date and the words “We Remember”. Because I won’t remember. You won’t remember either. You probably already forgot you posted it. Why? Because some things are just some fucked up shit that happened to some people. Your posting it doesn’t “bring us together” as anything other than assholes.
I intend no disrespect when I say that “Mack Daddy” from Kriss Kross shouldn’t have received a 12 hour Facebook procession. Chris Kelly led an interesting life, achieved much, and was a loss to those he was surrounded by. But maybe memorializing him because he was a curiosity from the 90s who wore his pants backwards isn’t honoring his memory as much as it’s making a spectacle of his death.
Author’s Note: When searching the term “Candlelight Vigil”, the second most popular answer in Google’s predictive text was “Candlelight Vigil ideas”, which provided a number of how-to guides. Detailed instructions on holding a candlelight vigil included 1) gathering people and 2) giving them candles.