The Facebook Obituary: A Helpful Guide to Mourning Celebrities

It is a well-known fact that celebrities die in threes. Music legend David Bowie, for instance, was far too big a deal to die without an opening act. Thankfully, there was Lemmy from Motörhead. Many people incorrectly assume that Diehard’s Alan Rickman formed the final part of this particular celebrity death trio, but it was actually Abe Vigoda, a talented actor and important source of rhyming material for the Beastie Boys.

What to do when confronted with so much celebrity death?

First, it is important to overreact. The death of a celebrity you grew up worshiping doesn’t just mean the end of your childhood, it is a unmistakable sign of impending doom. For example, the culture is forever ruined now that The Eagle’s co-founder Glenn Fry has finally checked in to the Hotel California, although prior to this foreseeable tragedy, there were those who argued that the ruination of the culture actually coincided with the recording of Hotel California. These people are wrong and should therefore refrain from using social media for at least a week.

We all grieve differently, but we all grieve socially

You will want to share your grief publicly. Do not let the fact that you did not personally know the deceased stop you from sharing; their death is a trending topic and all are welcome, regardless of hashtag.

But before you share, Google the celebrity’s name, just to be safe. Abe Vigoda is dead now, but while he was alive, frequent rumors about his death caught a lot of would-be mourners with black pants down around their ankles. Once, you’ve confirmed the celebrity death with multiple Internet sources, you’re ready to post.

For some, a simple Rest In Peace [Insert Dead Celebrity] will do. In 2007, when celeb trio Kurt Vonnegut, Anna Nicole Smith, and Robert Goulet left us, many early social media users simply wrote the names of those celebs and the letters R.I.P. This is not an inconsequential act; every post counts. Literally. Facebook doesn’t make this information public, but we are nearing a tipping point—soon there will be enough Big Data on mourning celebrity deaths to create a powerful infographic, one that will certainly go viral.

Trying your hand at an obituary

If the celebrity was particularly meaningful to you, or you did especially well in English composition classes, you may want to take a “deep-dive” into mourning.

If you choose to go this route, it is imperative that you check biographical facts. When the trio of Bea Arthur, Ed McMahon, and Patrick Swayze died, many Facebook users shared a rumor that each had turned down a national ad campaign for the Roomba. That rumor, which came from a dubious Indian tabloid site, turned out to be false, and many social media mourners were left with egg on their ashen faces. Some were even called “dipshits” by friends and family, the sting of the insult adding unnecessary pain to their grief.

Feedback

Regardless of what you write about a dead celebrity, you should be prepared for passive-aggressive posts from friends who do not share your loss. They will write things like: All these people mourning Leonard Nimoy like they actually knew him. Give me a break. Spock is gone, but the movies are on Netflix, people!

While it might seem reasonable to comment on a post like that to remind your friend that knowing someone personally is not a prerequisite for experiencing loss, a better strategy is to simply unfriend that heartless asshole. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life?

Is it ok to Like death?

Nobody likes death, except for maybe serial killers, those working in the mortuary services industry, and deal-conscious homebuyers in a tight housing market. But without a Dislike button, Facebook leaves us only two options for letting a friend know that we share their pain at losing such an important celebrity.

Option one is to comment on their post. You can always write something simple like, Well said, Julie! But for many, the pain of losing legends like Phyllis Diller or Bob Ross is too great to type out even the briefest of messages. Consequently, those who are rendered “typless,” should avail themselves of the Like button.

Clicking Like is a vote of solidarity, not an endorsement of death. Furthermore, by Liking an obituary for a Facebook celebrity, you are doing your part to help them trend. Next to sending flowers or donating to charity in their name, this is the greatest gift you can bestow upon a dead celebrity.

In contrast, withholding a Like denies the celebrity fame when they need it the most. Death, after all, may be their final opportunity to trend. Failing to support a celebrity at this critical moment can have dire consequences. Consider what happened to film critic Roger Ebert. Sadly, and to the surprise of many, Paul Walker’s 2013 death far exceeded the popularity of Ebert’s demise that same year. It did not matter that Ebert went first, or that he had savaged the Fast & Furious franchise. While we can blame Hollywood’s obsession with tent pole movies for this injustice, those who Shared, Liked, and Commented on Ebert’s passing know the truth. The failure mourn Ebert on Facebook by those who did not know him gave his passing an ironic and painful thumbs down that left him off of that year’s most important dead celebrity listicles.

Sorry, Roger. R.I.P.

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