How Social Media Helps Us Mourn the Loss of Robin Williams

By | August 11, 2015

robin williams

Has it really been a year since Robin Williams passed away? Somehow the world has coped and lived on without Williams’ special brand of comic genius in it. To this day, his estate is slowly being settled, as his widow and children battle out their remaining differences following court hearings in San Francisco.

Robin Williams’ shocking death on August 11, 2014 of an apparent suicide sent politicians, Hollywood stars, and fans alike to social media to share their memories of the late actor, and potentially to get their last glimpse of the star’s final social media posts.

The loss of a star is no different than losing a beloved family member. The pain and heartache feels relentless. In years gone past, friends were often able to physically rally around each other and provide the support so needed. However in our crazy modern age where global citizenship is prevalent, grieving has changed. Now more and more people are choosing the internet as their venue to help them deal with a tragic loss.

In a study of Facebook memorial pages it was concluded that most of the people wrote messages directly to the deceased, as if that person were reading it in afterlife. In this study, Degroot (2012) found that the people would even reach out to the deceased through the page and ask them for assistance with a specific issue they themselves are facing.

In another study conducted by Kern, Forman & Gil-Egui (2013) it was discovered the majority of pages showed that people posting to the RIP pages were writing in the second person (e.g., ‘watch over us from heaven’). Pages written in the second person outnumber first and third person pages by a margin of nearly 2:1.

Social media doesn’t take the place of direct, face to face communication. You cannot hug your friends and other mourners through social media. You cannot see their tears and they cannot fully experience your compassion in cyberspace. What it does is enables mourners to express their condolences when all other methods have been exhausted and deemed impossible.

About Alex Noudelman

Alex Noudelman is a digital marketing expert at iRISEmedia. He received his Honors B.A. from York University and a Masters in Adolescent Education from D’Youville College.

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