Death Online

Nothing gets people updating their Facebook status like celebrity death.

This summer we’ve had a lot to be updating about. With MJ and Farrah kicking things off in June, there was an outpouring of grief and 80’s nostalgia in my news feed for a week. A few days later, pitchman Billy Mays went to the great infomercial in the sky. A man that was only given a second thought when someone was making fun of his screaming or ridiculous beard, was suddenly being deified on the site. “RIP Billy.” “Billy, you’ll always be an infomercial in my heart.” Look, I hate death like everyone else who is alive, but he wasn’t Willy Mays. He was the “OxiClean Guy” until he died. I’ll miss him as much as I miss those stains. Yes, there was probably a certain amount of irony to the anguish so soon after Michael Jackson died. And that’s just wrong too.

In July, a few sports deaths resonated with my Facebook friends. I found out Steve McNair and Arturo Gatti both kicked the bucket through status updates. Perhaps the scandalous nature of both deaths lead to more heartache?

August saw the loss of John Hughes. The amount of status updates reached a feverish pitch. People of my demographic were melancholy by the passing of the man who made Saturday detention exciting. Understandable. This man brought joy to a generation and at times seemed as though he was reading our thoughts. However, instead of re-watching Weird Science and reflecting in our own way like before, we’re now grieving live and in living color online.

Sprinkled in among the bigger names were the niche deaths. The people that died that only a few people knew or cared about. The people you mourn to show others that you knew who they were. It doesn’t matter who dies. When they do, they’ll be mourned at the world’s biggest social gathering.

Yesterday, Patrick Swayze went to the roadhouse in a cloud after battling PC for two years. A stream of Dirty Dancing references flooded my Facebook feed. Swayze was a hero for shedding light on such a deadly disease, but most people knew him as the bad actor that taught Jennifer Grey’s nose how to dance.

Twitter and Facebook have given us the ability to inform millions of our innermost thoughts and it seems to have lead to an over-sentimentality revolution. Sure, make the case that it was always there. That this country is a caring and solemn crew. That these status updates are celebratory and not mournful. But I believe there are other forces at work. Maybe it’s cynical or heartless, but I think it may simply give us something to talk about. Maybe I need to change with the times. Maybe I’m just an asshole.

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