In the last year the world has lost some truly iconic singers, actors, comedians, writers and athletes. For almost every celebrity death Facebook and Twitter exploded with outpourings of grief and affection. This social mourning is nothing new, it was fairly common in the Victorian period but was subdued by World War One where the amount of loss was too great to properly mourn. Since then grief has been very personal but with the rise of social media we are seeing a greater public outpouring than ever before.
Public comments on social media tend to vary from the clearly devastated statements of disbelief to tributes that celebrate the life and work of the celebrity. Both are important. While the celebrity will not be able to see these tributes themselves their families will and seeing this outpouring of public grief can help them overcome their own personal loss.
If we look at some of the pop icons that have died in 2016 you can see exactly how touching many of these tributes are. When Prince and Bowie died social media was inundated with tributes but they were not just from fans other musicians were quick to express how much these artists influenced them. When Bowie died his family were ‘overwhelmed’ by the response. They also thanked fans for their love and support. This just shows the important role fans play in the grieving process when a celebrity dies.
Public mourning will not stop anytime soon which raises the question – should celebrities prepare for this? There is no real way of predicting when someone will die which limits the ability to prepare. However, a celebrity providing a message for their fans could have an incredible impact. This message would simply thank fans and say goodbye but this would ease a lot of public mourning by letting fans know how they were appreciated.
Celebrities leaving messages to fans is something we will see in the future. As more celebrities understand how fans react after their deaths they will make these arrangements. This will not stop with celebrities either; regular people will begin to understand how important leaving a posthumous message for loved ones is. Social media grieving is merely the first step towards this new way of mourning.
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