On one hand, I suppose, we all grieve a little bit differently.
And it's generally poor practice to question the sincerity of someone's mourning.
But in the past few years, with social media making it possible to react instantaneously upon hearing of a celebrity's death, it's hard to help but wonder how genuine some of these digital tears are.
When news of pop music superstar David Bowie's passing began spreading late on a Sunday night in January, Twitter and Facebook began lighting up with tributes almost immediately. Even with 140-character limitations on Twitter, several of the postings managed to be heartfelt. Mick Jagger posted: "David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. He was wonderfully shameless in his work." The Rolling Stones frontman also added a black-and-white photo of the two laughing together.
I'm not a Bowie fanatic, admittedly, and wasn't as crushed as others by the news. Still, I turned on a YouTube playlist of his music that night and scrolled through the memorials from other luminaries sharing their encounters with the Starman or simply how his work had inspired them. Even just seeing your average folks recalling how Bowie's trademark quirkiness spoke to them or even helped them through troubled times was heartening to see. I shed a tear or two closing my eyes for a moment during some of his music's most powerful crescendos.
But those posts were interrupted by any number of accounts that saw it necessary to post, simply, #RIPDavidBowie. Obviously, people are free to type what they like on their personal accounts, but if you're going to eulogize the guy, why not actually, you know, eulogize the guy?
Imagine being at a wake or a funeral and just standing up and saying '(Name of deceased) has died and I am acknowledging that it happened.' It just comes off as trite and disrespectful to the deceased — 'I don't have anything to say, but I feel I need to say something, so here it is.'
It's the way some people are wired, though, and social media is how those character traits manifest themselves in the 21st century.
The posters are typically the people who feel they need to have an opinion on everything, commenting on any number of stories per day with, often, a reactionary and piping-hot take. It seems like it's a sense of obligation to let the world know they know about every important issue, even if the depth of thought about those issues doesn't even reach their ankles. It must be exhausting to feel as though you need to be on all the time, and I certainly sympathize if you feel derelict in your duty if you don't publicly mark the occasion.
In greater and more shocking tragedies, like Tuesday's bombings in Belgium, there are going to be multitudes of fearful, awful and terrifying takes immediately afterwards.
There are also going to be those who post nothing more than #PrayForBrussles (sic). Before this devolves into a debate on so-called slacktivism and those who may feel a sense of self-satisfaction with changing their Facebook profile picture to one with an overlay of the French flag's bleu, blanc et rouge in the wake of last November's Paris attacks, for example, or evolves into why some rampages are cried over and some are ignored entirely, let's just say this: if you want to show you care about a hurting city and those who live there, at least take the four seconds to double-check its spelling in Google. Please.
The best approach comes from one thinker who seems to go viral for the right reasons in John Oliver. In a 2014 segment about corporations' use of Twitter, and how they should stay out of nuanced discussions and stick just to branding, the Last Week Tonight host eviscerated a number of well-known entities after a number of boondoggles, like SpaghettiOs recognizing the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing with a picture of its ring-shaped pasta mascot holding up the stars and stripes. Though he name-checks candy, the witty Brit provides solid advice to the masses as well.
"Your silence is never going to be controversial. No one is ever going to say 'I can't believe it. Skittles didn't tweet about 9/11 yesterday. They must support terrorism. I'm never eating them again!'"
If you feel emotions like a human and want to let them out, please, express them like one too.
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