The new death etiquette: short, shared, shallow – [independent.co.uk]
It’s a mark of the long reach of technology’s grappling hook that the death of the actor and comedian Robin Williams – to be followed only a few hours later by the passing of Lauren Bacall – should inspire a debate not only about their merits as entertainers but about the validity of the social media platforms on which fans queued up to pay tribute.
My colleague Simon Kelner, over in The Independent, was one of several commentators to wonder whether the encomia pronounced by people with no direct connection to the deceased were evidence that we had become “a shallow, sentimental society”, whose members found it difficult to distinguish between genuine emotion and those impelled into being by the peer group.
Kelner, having gamely confessed to never having found Williams particularly funny, ended up by presuming the Twitter memorial to be rather a good thing and arguing that social media “links us more closely to other people’s triumphs and tragedies. It gives us a sense of a greater humanity…
“Whatever one may feel about this judgement, the tidal wave of condolence that followed Williams’ self-inflicted death, appeared – once the views of a handful of relative-abusing trolls had been discounted – to be quite genuine. A neutral observer might have assumed that his career had peaked nearly a decade and a half ago, but longevity worked its habitual magic and for every fan of the recent work there was someone to remember Mork the space alien from 1978. Even Simon Cowell, one felt, was entitled to tweet that he never met him but he just knew he was a great guy.