Obviously being of the generation (and ethnic descent) where 'David Bowie' is nothing more than a public figure to me, it struck me as odd to see hours on end devoted to celebrity obituaries in the news last week. Mad Men (bear with me as I binge watched the entire 7 seasons in a short period of time, and will be frequently referencing it in posts) depicts an entirely different grieving culture to nowadays. It struck me as odd that employees were so personally attached to public figures, and would be huddled around the radio to hear updates and later cry at their loss. Nowadays, all we do is publicly acclaim some
detached attachment to the figure e.g. early career inspiration, and keep it moving.
But why do we keep it moving? It seems we've bred a culture where we robotically move through life, one sequence at a time. Little do we stop to properly digest and adjust to change. Companies stipulate a set timescale for employees to receive income during compassionate leave. Moguls are profiting off the notion that emotions aren't welcome in the working environment (Kelly Cutrone's New York Times Bestseller - 'If you have to cry, go outside' is a prime example), and it is now the norm to keep profession and personal completely separate. I wonder whether its human to do so; live completely compartmentalised lives?
I don't know about you, but I spend a large fraction of my time keeping up with the Jones', in the sense that I remain up to speed on what's what in Celebville. Whether you scroll down Daily Mail's Wall of Shame, or frequent ratchet accounts like The Shaderoom, odds are, you are somewhat invested in a complete stranger's life. So why wouldn't you be somewhat affected by their loss?
For many, expressing grief/ pain at a loss benefits themselves more than those closer to the departed i.e. family. As strange as it sounds. In an increasingly individualist Western society, joining others to mourn for a stranger helps to feel connected to a larger community or a common cause. Grieving acts as the glue, uniting people. Expressions of such grief don’t really count as feelings, as such, but more like an act of public participation.
Boots : Dorothy Perkins
Grieving publicly is frowned upon, if not downright taboo. But social media allows us to do so in a socially acceptable way. We can turn to Twitter to openly express our outrage at a tragic loss, and berate the heavens for losing a true gem and leaving the earth with muck in its wake. When the world experiences a tragic loss of a talented, inspiring or otherwise famous individual, strangers from all ends of the earth unite to comfort one another. Whether you can identify with the family's loss, or are disheartened that a soul you looked up to is no longer, social media allows us to express our condolences on an open platform, without judgment. Perhaps this is the modern means of expressing our distress at the current state of the world. A chance to truly be vulnerable in public again.
“To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die” Thomas Campbell