The demand for stars to share a post or statement within hours has become a sad reality of modern grief.
Stating the obvious, we live in a world where most things play out on social media. Those who choose not to have accounts on Instagram are outliers (and possibly much happier, as a result). We snap photos of our Starbucks order, post photos of our friends on nights out, take mirror selfies and post happy birthday messages. Our attachment to our phones now also affects the way we grieve.
On Sunday, it was announced that, tragically, Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding had passed away, after sharing her diagnosis with breast cancer last year. The internet flooded with tributes from shocked, devastated fans and friends. On the day, Nadine Coyle and Nicola Roberts wrote some heartfelt words for Sarah, along with some photos on Instagram. The next day, Kimberly Walsh and Cheryl Cole also wrote touching tributes. ‘Although we knew this day would arrive I am somehow still feeling at a loss for words that our stunning, unique, crazy, quirky, kind and soft-hearted girl has departed,’ Cheryl wrote. ‘As I try to navigate my way through these painfully strange and horribly unfamiliar waves of disbelief & finality I am experiencing, I wanted to extend my condolences to all of our GA fans. We were like an extended family for so long and we know so many of you by name.’
But, unbelievably, before this, some people were questioning why Cheryl hadn’t posted sooner – as if she wasn’t grieving the loss of somebody who was a huge part of her life. For those people living in the public eye, once news of a celebrity death breaks, there seems to be a wait for the public show of grief from their followers – almost as if they don’t acknowledge it, they’re not joining the rest of the world in mourning. Sadly, yesterday Michael K Williams – star of The Wire – was found dead after a suspected overdose. There have been waves of moving tributes from friends and people he worked with, with Wendell Pierce, Wire co-star, saying: ‘The depth of my love for this brother can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss.’
Speaking to Grazia in 2019, following the sad and unexpected death of Love Island star Mike Thalassitis, celebrity publicist Ed Hopkins explained why stars feel the need to post immediately. And why that often isn’t fair. (At the time, Megan McKenna, an ex-girlfriend, felt under so much pressure to write a tribute on social media, that she needlessly apologised for how long she took to post.)
‘Death is a touchy subject,’ he said. ‘Journalists have to realise that the person is mourning, and although they are in the public eye, they do have to compose themselves about what they’re going to say. If it was a normal person, so to speak, then you’ve got to deal with the grief, but if you’re a celebrity and you’ve got to deal with how you conduct yourself in public straight away. It’s a lot to deal with; there’s a lot of pressure.’
Celebs Go Dating’s Sam Thompson, when writing a tribute to Mike, explained it best – social media isn’t, and shouldn’t, be the default way to grieve. ‘I don’t think for me anyway that social media is a place to grieve,’ he said. ‘It makes me sad that to the normal person in today’s world, if you don’t do a post then you didn’t care.’
As Andy Langford, Chief Operating Officer at Cruse Bereavement Care, told us in 2019, for some, social media is a comfort – but that isn’t always the case. ‘It can help people to express their grief in a public way and receive support online from others who are also grieving,’ he said. ‘But we all grieve in our own way, and, for some people, reacting to someone’s death on social media may not feel appropriate. We should not criticise others, including celebrities, when they don’t post tributes online when someone they know dies. We should respect their privacy and offer words of support instead.’
Original posted at graziadaily.co.uk