People who knew us but never loved us will be able to summarize their memory of us with a single sentence. A few years back, I’ve written about the way we reminisce about our ex partners. “She was fine”, “dynamite in bed”, “his dick was small”. However, if we’ve truly loved somebody, we could talk about them for hours on end.
The “One Sentence Only” theory is very relevant in the context of social media.
„It’s him. He died.” The words of a woman tweeting about a car crash and unknowingly live tweeting her husband’s death. Funny, isn’t it?
Compare the comments about a baby being born with comments under posts about somebody dying and you’ll notice that there’s hardly any difference between them. They’re equally brief, bleak and meaningless.
Paul Walker was a second rate B movie actor. His death should have made the same impression on us that the deaths of many anonymous actors do. Minimal. Like the way we react to all the good people who died, many of whom have brought a positive change to the world.
They die every single day. Only a handful of deaths are able to move the public imagination, but only when the media does its thing first. I’ve never heard of masses of people mourning for someone who’s death has been overlooked by the media. Today I’ve read that a bunch of racing enthusiasts want to pay their respects to Walker by driving through the city (what the fuck?!). You’re basically mourning the death of a glorified extra. But the media has made a big deal of it. How dumb do you have to be to jump on that hype train? What was the big deal about Paul fucking Walker? What did he mean to you? He was just a collection of ones and zeroes in that movie file you’ve torrented. Christ.
Death is a big part of marketing. If they’re tweeting about you, it doesn’t matter if you’re dead. Your PR guy is still doing his thing. Celebrities raced to Twitter to post their condolences. Some were a bit late, having probably decided to take a pause to pick their nose or bite their fingernails.
Don’t believe me? I’ve done my research. I’ll mention a few of them as there’s no need to waste more space on the thing.
Can you spot the similarities?
Same day, same death, same sadness. And, just like that, it’s back to the ordinary. These screenshots were grabbed on the day of Walker’s death and the day after. First, there was an inextinguishable sadness, broken hearts and infinite sorrow. Next tweet, though? We’re back to optimism, happiness and everyday business.
Some people claim it’s in poor taste to hit the “like” button under posts about somebody’s death. Why exactly?
I do it because that way I’m not lying to myself. Somebody else’s death is nothing but just another news story for us. Is any single one of you actually mourning for Walker? Is one of his crying friends doing it? Ironically, it wouldn’t look too good if they actually were dressed in black and so on. It’d look like a cunning PR tactic.
Nowadays, a post about somebody dying has the same importance as a post about somebody being born or having a birthday. Now that I think of it, it probably even has the same importance as a selfie or another cat picture on your newsfeed. It’s just a piece of information you have to digest or spit out.
I remember flipping through a stack of old pictures with my grandmother. Each photographed person had an interesting tale attached to them. I could hear my grandma being shaken about the people no longer being around. Death used to be a private experience. People’s deaths weren’t publicly celebrated. People weren’t walking around town all sad to show how much they are grieving and being mad at you for how peaceful you look. That’d be idiotic.
We can no longer touch a picture. Doesn’t matter. We can tag it. Most pictures have a “public” setting these days. We keep watching our friends’ lives closely and, in turn, we are being watched back. Everybody’s going to have so much more information about us, incomparable to what past generations had, but our death will still be summed up in 140 characters. Maybe less.
I’m just glad I’ll be gone and I won’t have to look at that mess.