2016 has seen the passing of a staggering number of celebrity icons. Alan Rickman passed away at the beginning of the year after a battle with cancer, and fellow actor Gene Wilder, best known for his role as Willy Wonka, in August. Star Wars R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker, and BAFTA nominated for his 'Manuel' role in Faulty Towers actor Andrew Sachs died in December. Sir Terry Wogan broke the nations' heart after passing away aged 77, and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali followed, aged 73. The music world too took a hit, with icons David Bowie, Prince and Rich Parfitt all passing away this year.
I read an article in The Mirror, triggered perhaps by George Michael's untimely death (although death is never timely) on Christmas Eve, as to why so many celebrities have died this year. Is it the wild and crazy lifestyles, a rise in famous people, or perhaps just a coincidence?
Whatever the reason, there has been a lot to mourn this year, and as with any event in the public eye, millions have taken to social media to share their thoughts and condolences. This has produced an interesting series of reactions. I will give you an example. Camilla Long, a columnist for The Sunday Times tweeted a, controversial, shall we say, message after the death of David Bowie. "So many people "crying" or "in bits" over Bowie. F*** YOU. You are not ten - you are an adult. Man the f*** up and say something interesting". Of course, this triggered a large backlash of responses, seemingly coming from two camps.
This tweet, along with many others of a similar nature has highlighted an interesting question - why do we post so much about the death of a celebrity?
Digging around in the newspaper archives I came across an article by Dean Burnett for The Guardian - 'Celebrity Deaths: Why Everybody Grieving Is Wrong And I'm Right'. Putting aside my personal thoughts on the piece (not great), a point is raised. Why do we tweet #RIP? I follow around 300 people on Twitter, and I have seen a good 50% of my following base tweet their condolences to George Michael, links to their favourite songs, tributes and photos. It begs a difficult question - has grieving the death of a celebrity translated to an opportunity to gain Twitter standing?
There is no denying that the rise of social media has given people all over the world a platform to share their views. When someone tweets 'can't stop crying #RIPBowie', how literally should this be taken. Public grieving has reached insufferable levels according to an article by Alex Proud. The suggestion of grown adults crying over superficial celebrities who they've never met is deemed ridiculous. This viewpoint encompasses the general views of Camp A - the grief police. Yes, they may have starred in your favourite childhood film, but you didn't know them, they didn't know you. Camp B, seem to go along the lines of, if you don't have anything nice to say... You see the point I'm trying to make. It comes down to perhaps a more fundamental idea of why we share anything online. If my parents died last week, would I have posted about it on Twitter? Probably not. However, the world doesn't know my parents.
It's easy to see both sides. I was sad when Alan Rickman passed away, because he played a fantastic role in some of my favourite films, did a lot of charity work, and had a beautiful storyteller's voice, but I didn't tweet this. One of my followers tweeted it had ruined her year. Neither of us are wrong for having an opinion and choosing what we do with it.
The point I am trying to make is that sharing your grief online doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, not sharing your grief doesn't make you a bad person either. Whether you believe every tweet is sincere or a way to catch the limelight for a few hours is up to you - everyone tweets for their own reasons. To say is to feel (don't ask where that came from), and Facebook's status bar does ask 'what's on your mind'.
Here's to hoping a less mournful 2017.