There is no right way to mourn celebrities on the internet

There is no right way to mourn celebrities on the internet. My grandmother was neither British nor Christian, but what I remember as the thorough decorum of her passing formed my idea of "proper mourning." Social media put an end to all that. The public wailing and tweets about "2016 being the worst year ever" when there have been and will be worse had seemed tawdry to me, but I regret feeling that way now. Such policing, however, very much misses the point. The grief police are not thinking of Carrie Fisher's daughter when they tell you not to tweet. Most often, they're uncomfortable with either the idea of mourning celebrity or the triviality of social media as a forum for expressing bereavement. Along with other members of the "grief police," I was not immune when it suited me. A rigorous lack of mourning for the passing of art and those who make it isn't something to bully people with. If you're asking people to put logic over feeling on social media — you can try, but you will not succeed.

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Flowers are laid beneath a mural of David Bowie in Brixton on January 11, 2016 in London, England.
Flowers are laid beneath a mural of David Bowie in Brixton on January 11, 2016 in London, England.

My grandmother’s funeral was quiet. I was young, so I can recall only a sliver of that day in Melbourne, but I do remember the silence.

In places like Australia, the public tradition of mourning is largely that of Anglo-Saxon stoicism. My grandmother was neither British nor Christian, but what I remember as the thorough decorum of her passing formed my idea of “proper mourning.”

Social media put an end to all that. On Twitter and Facebook the practice is loud. It’s noisy and decadent. Even obnoxious.

In a year marked by the worst of everything, the march of celebrity death was a horribly steady and repetitive drumbeat.

You might have thought we would tire of public prostrations of anguish, but the furore that marked David Bowie’s passing in February has seemed more than matched by the double gut punch of George Michael and Carrie Fisher in the twilight of this year.

The public wailing and tweets about “2016 being the worst year ever” when there have been and will be worse had seemed tawdry to me, but I regret feeling that way now.

After Bowie’s death, I was “grief policing,” as Megan Garber put it in The Atlantic.

Grief policing may be a fitting thing for a culture that has elevated ’you’re doing it wrong’ to a kind of Hegelian taunt, that treats every social-media-ed expression as a basis for an argument, and that is on top of it all generally extremely confused about how to mourn ‘properly’. Such policing, however, very much misses the point.

The grief police are not thinking of Carrie Fisher’s daughter when they tell…

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