Why people mourn artists on twitter?
When The Prince lost his life, and millions of people mourn, He was just 57 years old. His death was so sudden, it caused shock and devastation for many people across the world.
But when the deceased begins to settle into the past tense, some questions remain unanswered:
- Why was this person so important?
- How hard can we mourn when we are only one of so many?
For example, when I found out that David Bowie had died, I turned to the two people who loved him the most: my college friend M and my father. They couldn’t be more different, but they both loved Bowie’s tireless dedication to his own space curiosity, which opened their minds, blew them up and put them back together as something else. Maybe a little shinier.
When I asked M how she was doing, she replied with a flood of confused lyrics: “I don’t know”, “I just couldn’t stop crying”, “just gutted. Then a little embarrassed: “I’m more upset than I should be about a celebrity death?”
I just told her right away that she could mourn as she wanted, but I didn’t have the right words to convey why – until I saw this tweet:
Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.
— Juliette (@ElusiveJ) January 11, 2016
Great artists address both the great emotions that threaten to consume you and the blurred ones that lurk in your periphery, indistinctly but as urgently. Great artists reach into their own hearts, brains, and guts to find out what is most important and to make it happen for you. Then you can decide what – if anything – it means for you.
Mourning Artists on twitter
After Bowie’s death, when I was browsing my Facebook and Twitter feeds (where so many mourn now), I saw hundreds of posts dedicated to Starman, Ziggy Stardust, and the Thin White Duke. No two honours were the same. And, fittingly, the same is true about Prince.
Even when several people posted about the same song, their reasons were very different. My friends and celebrities talked about how Bowie and Prince broadened their horizons, and they felt less alone. They talked about how they created exciting, limitless universes that they could easily visit through their headphones when needed. They talked alot about how much they meant to them – how much they helped them get to know themselves.
Mourning Artists on twitter
Mass mourning may reinforce the initial reaction, but every single reaction to the death of a public figure is an individual one. We all experience art from our own unique place. That’s true whether you hear for the first time the joyous, soaring refrain of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” or the fierce zipper of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel“.
It’s true whether you feel an ecstatic jolt in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller“, clutching your face so as not to smile too much in Robin Williams’ performance in The Birdcage, and give in to the chills inspired by Heath Ledger’s smile in 10 Things I Hate About, or close your eyes and let the smoke from Amy Winehouse’s voice ripple and squeeze around you, just a little too hard.
Or maybe you don’t recognize any of these experiences entirely. After all, they are mine. In those moments, I learned a little more about myself thanks to people I had never met and who I never knew beyond the art they presented to the world. But I am still grateful that they passed through my solar system, even though their orbits were worlds away – and I suspect you are too.
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