Friday, April 22, 2016

Silent Twitter Eulogies: Condolences for Prince & Chyna

No more wailing and crying, sobbing and shouting, no mass marches or Sunday funerals, not even phone calls. Welcome to the new age of Twitter Homage for the Dead!

Today we lost two iconic beings, in their own rite. Prince I knew about, loved the music and his eccentric yet captivating sense of fashion, and a 80's legend. Chyna, a groundbreaking female wrestler and a porn star, I knew nothing about. And they both died young (57 and 45 respectively) under mysterious conditions (elevator and apartment couch respectively). 

In early days, when a celebrity passed, major TV outlets would break the news and the nation would be glued to the screens in disbelief, sorrow or both. This process would continue for a few days until people grieved enough to move on. There would then be a televised funeral that again, the entire nation would watch. Fans would follow up with greeting cards and love letters to the artist. It was a drawn, somewhat surreal and a definite cathartic experience. 

Today, the eulogy machine is set and ready to go. It is quick, not surreal and almost has a feeling of checking something off the to-do list. As soon as CNN broke the news of Prince's passing today, tweets poured in from all over the world. Some very personal from close friends and families, others from celebrity fans who respected and admired the artists. Same for Chyna. And in many cases, that tweet just about does it. There are no funeral arrangements to go to, no phone calls, no dressing up, no buying flowers, not even sitting down to think and pen down a letter. Tweet and move on! 

Online condolences bring about another solemn yet interesting debate. Is a tweet about someone's passing given the same weight as one for Donald Trump's latest gaffe-of-the-day. We certainly won't put them on the same scale although they might get the same 30 seconds of our attention. Is a tweet too casual or almost dismissive act over someone's passing? Or is this the new form of condolences on-the-go? Tyler Brule, a senior editor of Financial Times who was shot twice in Kabul, Afghanistan says this about the tweeting and death, "Is it really a show of respect when you use Twitter to express your condolences? Where is the dignity when you use an outlet that curbs the amount you can write? The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the AirAsia crash, Joan Rivers’ death and Charlie Hebdo — all blend into a sterile clump of thoughts, prayers, condolences and shock."

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