THE BLOG

David Bowie, Princess Diana and a Boy on a Beach

11/01/2016 20:43 GMT | Updated 11/01/2017 10:12 GMT

The death of a very public person, or a very public death will have each of us questioning the whens, whys and what fors. In a time when it's easy to overshare on social media, do you succumb to the lure of a Facebook update, a tweet or an instagram pic of your grief?

The first thing most of us do when we wake is to check our phones, our emails and our social media, it is the one tool that allows us to share our opinions, and our congratulations or commiserations, easily and instantly. The death of David Bowie was announced early Monday morning on his Facebook page. It seemed everyone wanted to share their opinion on him, his work, his image and how they were affected by his (life) and death.

There are some deaths that galvanise us, that of a Princess, the body of a young boy washed up on a beach or that of an icon so ingrained in the public consciousness, that we almost feel we know them. We can easily express our emotions in an update and can emote freely with a crying emoji or a quote that reads like something straight from a Hallmark greeting card.The best and worst thing about our Facebook profiles, twitter and instagram accounts is that we can portray our life, our emotions and our new haircuts in the most favourable light, but the easiest way to gauge a persons level of empathy, pretension or intelligence is to wait for someone truly famous to die, and then read their reaction to it.

The outpouring of grief when Princess Diana died was something we had never seen before, people took to the streets, spoke to their neighbours, and cried with strangers in a park full of rotting flowers, she didn't have a Facebook wall where the public could lay their virtual bouquets. Years later, the body of three year old Aylan Kurdi was washed up on a Turkish beach. Aylan wasn't famous, but soon became the symbol of the refugee crisis. Social media became the tool for us to express our sympathy and our new found understanding of the Syrian's plight, with the death of someone as iconic as David Bowie, we can all pay our respects by posting pictures of him, his videos and talk about how his life's work has impacted our own lives.

The death of a very famous person or a very famous death, allow us to project our own emotions upon them. It can be easier to express our grief about someone we feel we know, or our outrage at some injustice to five hundred Facebook friends or a thousand twitter followers, than it can to be deal with the real emotions we are feeling. Social media allows to us grieve, to empathise and to express our opinions collectively, but for how long? Are we all just waiting for the next big update?