Death on Twitter – Paying Your Respects or Tweeting Your Own Horn?

July 6th, 2009 |


I always knew that the contemplative life was great but at the end of the day you still gotta make a living. Feel free to chat with me about philosophy, business, social media, etc. in 140 character bursts on Twitter.


By now, every corner of the world is aware of the death of Michael Jackson. Love him or hate him, when a celebrity of this stature dies, it reminds us all that even the mighty are mortal. (Yet, for some inexplicable psychology, many still need their mortal confirmation in multiples of three).

In a frenzy to beat the mainstream networks to a scoop, hashtags began to appear for the MJ death watch on Twitter and when the inevitable was confirmed, the inquiries and retweets -  “Is Michael Jackson dead?” quickly turned to memorials – “RIP MJ!”.


Now, I don’t doubt that millions of people have been genuinely moved and inspired by Michael Jackson over the years. I never wore a sequined glove but I’ve been known to butcher a moon walk or two in my day. I was as shocked as anyone for whom the bell tolls, but did I feel the need to let a largely anonymous group of followers know that “I’m going to miss #MichaelJackson”? No.

Paying one’s respects to the dead is meant to be just that – a respectful, discreet acknowledgement of the loss to those close to the deceased. Yet, given the proliferation of MJ related hashtags (which by definition are meant to be searched) and insincere tweets about Michael Jackson’s influence, it is clear that many people simply saw this as a grand opportunity for Search Engine Optimized Self Promotion (“My #MJ_RIP tweet will be read by millions!”).

Afterall, it’s not every day you get to hitch your Twitter profile to a #trending_dead_celebrity* (*although a new phenomenon is developing…Now, when a celebrity’s name appears in a Twitter trending topic, millions of people automatically assume the celebrity is dead).

#RIP SME (Social Media Etiquette)

Social media seems to have allowed us avenues to self promote in ways we would never dream of in an offline world (maybe unless you were under hypnosis). You’d never bring a loudspeaker to a funeral, but shouting your name while the casket is being lowered seems to be perfectly acceptable in the online world.

Remember, respect doesn’t need a #hashtag.

“… don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly…where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get…” Matthew Chapter 6:5-6

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