Grief & Anger: Social Network Stages of Celebrity Death

"social media grief"

This past Saturday, February 11th, the world was overcome with anxiety when reports surfaced of Whitney Houston’s death.  Like many other events in the recent past, Twitter was the first to spread the word virally.  And in that same token, most wanted to believe it was one of many twitter hoaxes in the past.

Unfortunately, it was not.  The Queen of Pop was really gone.  Once it was confirmed, and shock turned into grief–similar to Michael Jackson, Etta James, Heavy D,  Amy Winehouse, and more–the real debates began.

It seems like the cycle that never ends.  It happens the same every time.  Not because everyone grieves the same, but precisely because they do not.  While social media commentator, Luvvie, described it as the 5th step in a 5-step cycle, I see much more included into this equation.

Whitney Houston sold over 170million records worldwide as one of the best selling music artists;  Won 415 acclaimed awards in her lifetime as the most awarded female act of all-time; And inspired more than three decades of singers and performers.  She had a huge impact on the music industry, to say the least.  Because of this domination in her field, she simultaneously played a huge role in the lives of many through the evolution of her music.

The problems that arise during this cycle of grief for many of her fans and critics via social networks, is that some choose a very different route than the majority.  There’s the extreme grief, the mild grief, the guilted, the mild angry and the extreme angry.  All of these emotions do not necessarily have to be equated with the death of the celebrity, but will play out as so.

The Extreme Grief

It’s only right that I place myself in this category.  It also seems to be the most popular form. As a huge fan of Whitney Houston and many other performers who recently passed, I grieved like most. Majority of tweeters and facebookers belong in ‘extreme grief’ because they have no reserves for feeling distraught over an inspiration and motivation in their lives. These are people who will post videos, engage in conversations about memories they have of their music, movies, etc. They will most likely quote them, share photos, and express condolences to their dear and near friends and family. And without a doubt, they will defend their position to anyone belonging to the ANGRY category. But that will come later. This is usually healthy grief via social networking.

The Mild Grief

The mild griever will not tweet more than 5 statements about the deceased, and in some cases can come off as a bit insensitive.  In reality, it isn’t insensitive at all, but a different form of grieving, if grieving at all.  Many mild grievers express their sorrow for the loss, but mostly because they understand that someone else is hurting more than them.  They are not overcome to share every moment of their grief cycle, if they are even having one.  They will not post hundreds of photos, follow every news outlet updates, or share every favorite song or movie.  They will speak their condolences, and continue their life as usual.  Nothing wrong with that.

The Guilted

The guilted is probably the most healthy place to be, but, at any moment, can turn either way.  They are the most humanizing of all grievers.  While they are very taken aback by the news, they’re also reminded of personal battles they that may be similar or worse.  So, they will post condolences and maybe even tweet about their impact.  But, they will also add in personal experiences and people they’ve lost or are losing.  Depending on the circumstances, they can become angry and shut down to mild grief or slum to a worse mild angry.  Mostly, they don’t want to seem as if they’re sanctifying the celebrity.  And are not compelled to dive completely into apparent grief because of their personal lives.

The Mild Angry

The Mild Angry is when grief via social networking becomes borderline terrorism.  These people will (sometimes) express condolences, but will undoubtedly make a joke of the matter.  Bringing up the unfavorable past of the deceased and making mockery of cause of death is what they’re most popular for.  While others may make a few jokes to lighten the mood, the mild angry will make such vile jokes that they end up receiving the attention they seek.

The Extreme Angry

No one can stand these people, except for the ones who belong in the group.  Borderline terrorism has crossed into a TSA Lockdown by this time.  These people are the ones who are instantly unfollowed or deleted.  They laugh about how no one spoke of the deceased the day before; make light of their death by saying they deserved it; cry about how no one said anything when their personal friend or family member died; and/or become a nuisance to everyone who is trying to grieve in peace.  They have it all wrong and speak their opinions the loudest.


Whichever way you swing in your social media grief of celebrities, one thing that’s fact of our latest loss: Whitney Houston is deserving of praise no matter the cause of death or personal tribulations.  Iconic and legendary celebrities give up their privacy to inspire a world.  We’ll be celebrating the music of Houston for decades to come, and ignoring all else from (some of) ‘The Guilted’ on down.  We wish the best for all of Whitney’s personal family and friends, and hope that some of you social networking angry birds find the 3-star points at the end of the boulder collapse.

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