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Social Media And Mourning

Overflow of emotions in the digital world?

The social media world went into overdrive on Monday evening, as the tragic news that Peaches Geldof passed away at just 25 years of age. The British model and daughter of Irish singer Bob Geldof and TV personality Paula Yates, died at her home, with police calling the death “unexplained and sudden”, but also stressing at this point that it is not being treated as suspicious.

social media and mourning

No doubt there will be a huge aftermath to the sad passing of a young woman, but because we live in the 21st century there is also a digital side to the story. It adds an extra layer of sadness to the tragedy, as the day before she passed; Geldof posted a photo of herself as a youngster with her mother on Twitter. Yates died in 2000 of a drug overdose, and the caption read “Me and my mum” on Geldof’s picture.

It highlights a very morbid side of social media that people live on through their accounts whether the family of the deceased like it or not. Although a physical presence may be gone forever, today’s networking ensures that their final farewell will be forever in the public eye, and whatever they last articulated could shape the opinion on their death. For celebrities it is especially unsettling, as they have more followers than the average Joe on social media, and when someone in the public eye passes away, then naturally, the curiosity of the human being sends them over to their page to study what they were saying before they died.

In typical tabloid fashion, details began to emerge of Geldof’s “wild child” life and previous drug use. There were also details being spread of how she struggled to deal with the fame of her parents, and suffering extreme grief after her mother died in 2000, Peaches Geldof was just 11 years old at the time. It is a worrying period we live in, where the tabloids can dig out personal information about somebody just moments after their premature death, purely for the masses’ amusement. With the power of social media, people are given the opportunity to share this information very quickly to all corners of the globe.

Social media also creates a digital world where people think they actually know celebrities personally. Geldof’s final picture on Twitter is now filled with “RIP” messages, and people were also tweeting to her personal page by using her username. This is especially unsettling as it takes the mourning process online; somewhere it should never really been taken. Mourning is a natural process for human beings, and by ‘digitalising’ this, we could be moving the process into modernity, therefore expecting people to mourn quickly and move on.

social media and mourning

It is as if human beings now have to say goodbye to the real physical entity and the digital version of the individual. People have always had to deal with finding notes from loved ones who have passed, but now in the age of social media, this takes the form of multiple posts that will never go away. This is not just through the likes of Twitter and Facebook, but also emails and text messages. The absorbing nature of the trail can make the mourning process for families very difficult, and the family of Peaches Geldof will be battling with this as well as the natural healing process that will proceed.

Of course, every situation is different to the next, but taking the mourning process online can only be a bad thing for many. This does not stop at celebrity deaths either. It seems that standard procedure upon someone’s death is to immediately set up a memorial Facebook page in his or her memory, and this spells an uncomfortable age we live in, where as a race, we are unsure how to cope with death. This will always be the case due to questions that can never be answered, but when it’s all said and done, one human life is worth a lot more than an ode online.

Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Social Media And Mourning Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, April 08, 2014 Rating: 5
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