death and twitter

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today Junior Seau died. He was an ex-football star who had a distinguished 20 year career in the National Football League. Most likely he will eventually – and rightfully – get inducted into that sport’s Hall of Fame. Preliminary indications are he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 43.

Ever since Twitter burst into the collective consciousness people have used it as a vehicle to express public condolences when someone of note passes away. Today was no exception. Apparently the Twitterverse was bursting with tweets regarding the death of this man. Here’s a small sample of what popped up on Twitter in the hours following this tragedy.

Please tell me Jr Seau ain’t dead PLEASE! !!!!! – Deion Sanders
– Junior Seau’s mom crying on TV is the most sad thing you’ll see today – Jason McIntyre
RIP Junior Seau. Life is so precious. Cherish every moment of it. – Mohamed Massaquoi
“Today is the worst day” – Marcellus Wiley on the death of Junior Seau – J.A. Adante
RIP Junior Seau..puts things in perspective – Eric Reid Jr.
We must enjoy each day like its our last…RIP Junior Seau – Pierre Thomas
RIP Junior Seau .. Idk him personally but it’s really messin with me. – TJ McDonald

Here’s what I get and what I am apparently missing.

What I get: People who knew Mr. Seau are distraught by his death. Of course they are. I’m sure they are grieving as I type this. Others who didn’t know him, but respected his athletic ability, are also shocked such a man would apparently commit suicide. Death stirs up complex emotions and makes people reflective. I understand that.

What I don’t get: Is this how we now respond to the death of person, someone who lived a life filled with struggles and success and confusion and troubles and all the other stuff that rides alongside each of us? We reduce everything – the life, the death, our reaction, our grief, our opinions – into a fucking tweet? This is honoring a person? Is that the kind of society we’ve become? Really??

I can tell you with absolute certainty if someone I knew and/or respected and/or idolized passed away the last thing that would occur to me – especially when the news was still fresh – would be to go onto Twitter to commemorate that person to the world in 140 characters or less. A life is worth more than that, isn’t it?

The cynical me wonders if tweeting when death is involved is really about the deceased. Maybe it is, sometimes. But cynical me thinks it is often about the person tweeting. Perhaps I’m out of touch, but death is not an opportunity to tell the world how you feel. Cause it ain’t about you.

If you personally knew Mr. Seau reach out to his family in a quiet, dignified manner. If you didn’t know him perhaps make an effort emulate a positive quality of his you admired. And when people ask why you are doing something in a way inspired by him, tell them you learned it from the example Junior Seau set during his life. That is paying tribute.

Resorting to Twitter may give the illusion you care, it may provide a brief outlet for your shock, but it is nothing more than vapor. Soon enough something new and totally inane will pop into your head. Back to Twitter you’ll go to share this nonsense. The instant you do that you’ve immediately pushed this man’s life into the corner. Does that sound a heartfelt way to pay respect?

  1. m33pblub says:

    Think its called Tweeted but if your are a tweeter your also a twittler or a Tweety. But if you only read post on Twitter your reading a tweet… I think.

    I use twitter but only to spam everyone with my art! Dont even know how to respond to someone if they do talk to me on there :s…make me feel old.


  2. Amuthafuckingmen!
    My dad was in ICU a few months ago and my brother took to Facebook to say how much he hates hospitals. Umm, who loves them?! But I digress.
    I completely agree that it’s more about the person doing the Tweeting or Facebooking and a way to get attention. It’s sad.
    I’m sort of proud to say that I’ve never tweeted. Or is it twatted?


  3. kayjai says:

    I find young people use social media as their sole means for communication. Actual face time is absent in lieu of tweeting, Facebook and texting. It is sad, but this next generation seems drawn to it, almost obsessed with it all. I think there’s an element of ‘security’ in saying words in text than in verbal dialogue. Tweeting has become the standard of communication for celebrities and where so many young adults idolize these people, they blindly follow suit. I find tweeting about a death morbid and distasteful, but to a person 20-30 years my junior, it has become acceptable and almost ‘normal’. The notion of instant gratification and the availability of instant information has overridden grace and dignity, I’m afraid….


  4. whiteladyinthehood says:

    I agree.


  5. Folly & the Wrong Men says:

    I have never tweeted at all – least of all over the death of a person. I’m with you. It seems disrespectful – it does not properly honor the person.


  6. rangewriter says:

    I pretty much agree with your take on death and Twitter. 140 characters is not enough to memorialize a person’s life, or to grapple with the larger issue, which is really, our own mortality. I have come to believe, that death is really not about the person who died. It is about the rest of us, who stand around and realize once again, that the gaping hole of death is somewhere around the corner, waiting. And I couldn’t even have expressed that puny thought is 140 characters.


  7. m33pblub says:

    This same reaction a few months back when my cousins half brother passed away. How did I find out he was dead? Facebook…. My two cousins where spamming Facebook… Even their mom where spamming it. “We will see you in heaven sweet brother” “I will miss you, RIP” etc. Etc… For over a week they did this– openly on Facebook. They never told anyone how he died…. But from all there spamming there are now a few rumors around about overdose, suicide, accident…. We have no idea. I dident feel it was the right time to ask. Maby I should have asked.. maby that’s what they wanted?
    What I don’t understand is…. When do they take their time to grief? When did they plan the funeral? From the spam on Facebook I doubt they had the time. I feel for them and I understand their pain but due to respect of their brother who hates the internet I didn’t respond to any of their posts. If he could speak from his grave he would tell his sisters to shut the fuck up and support eatch other In Real Life… Not on Facebook.


  8. I think you are spot on with this post. Twitter is about the person tweeting and nothing more. It’s a way of saying “look at me.” I don’t quite get why people are so drawn to it either.

    As a side note, I love MysteryCoach’s comment about how Twitter would drive him to bash his phone with a hammer – my first real laugh of the day!


  9. mysterycoach says:

    What I have found, and at different levels is that most people are ready to jump on bandwagons without thinking. That having been said, maybe the tweeting was the only way they could think up saying “something” about it and expressing an opinion.

    As a side note, what interests me about twitter is how drawn people are to it. If my phone tweeted all day? I’d bash it with a hammer.

    I’m not a sports fan, I only heard about him yesterday because my boss mentioned it. What’s really sad about the whole thing is that he was so down that he took (so they’ve said? I haven’t read up on it any further) his own life… that’s awful and not because he was famous, because he’s a human being… first and foremost.


    • John says:

      Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t understand the need to publicly announce your thoughts and feelings about someone’s death using what is basically is a big self-marketing tool. But like I said, I’m probably missing something.


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