I can't remember the last time I heard about a celebrity's death on the news. Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy, Philip Seymour Hoffman... I learned about every one of those deaths on either Twitter or Facebook.
So when I noticed on CNN's Breaking News page that writer/director/actor Harold Ramis died, my first thought was, "Bet this is already all over social media." I clicked over and guess what?
I considered posting it myself, but instead I stopped to think about why I would do that. Why anyone would do that. It all goes back to why we gossip...which I've written a little something about. ------->
We want to be the one who knows things. It makes us feel important. I was exposed to that feeling when I was in college, studying to be a TV reporter. News of Operation Desert Storm broke [video] and I thought, "How exciting to be present when history is happening."
But it goes deeper than that. We like to pretend we want to pay tribute to deceased people we barely know--to honor them because they touched our lives somehow. Cartoonist Ash Vickers even designed this tribute, which immediately began circulating on Twitter:
We can't wait to share the news online. Why? Because it makes us feel like we're part of the event. It connects us to other human beings in a very basic way. Yet if someone told us we had to break the news of someone's death to his family members, it would be the last thing in the world we'd want to do. Interesting how that works.
Social media just gives us a new outlet for our gossip. It's the online version of, "Did you hear?" around the water cooler. Speaking as one of the 13.4 million Americans who work from home and therefore no longer have access to a water cooler, we get gossip where we can. And these days, that gossip is on social media.
So the next time a celebrity dies and social media blows up over it, ask yourself--why is everyone so eager to add to the "RIP" posts once someone dies? Is it really to honor the deceased?
Or are there other, slightly more selfish reasons?