The Exploitation of Tragedy

The death of an individual, especially if they are close at heart, can spark a wave of both anger and sadness simultaneously. However, nothing enrages me more than scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram newsfeeds and seeing posts along the lines of “Like this post if you cared about Random Dead Person, Rest In Peace” or “Share this picture if you knew Random Dead Person, RIP”. This especially angers me if the person creating such a post did not even know the individual who had just passed away.

As an aside, let me be extremely clear that I am not suggesting that making announcements over social media that the passing of a person such as a family member is entirely wrong. In fact, it can be therapeutic to let friends and other relatives know that someone  close to you has died, so that they can comfort you. I have several relatives post on mediums such as Facebook that they have lost someone important in their lives, ranging from a husband, their kids, or even their beloved pets that they have had for so long; I know for a fact that seeing comments that share fond memories of interactions with these people or just messages of support can brighten a person’s day immensely. Furthermore, by posting photos of your loved ones, you can immortalize them in the digital world and cherish the happy times that you shared with these individuals. However, what I do not appreciate is when people use death to try calling attention to themselves.

If you really take a close look at these posts— exactly what are these people trying to achieve by “recognizing” that a person has just died by asking for “likes” or “shares”? It is not as though they are writing a thoughtful post filled with happy anecdotes of how much fun they had interacting with this person; rather, they are looking for attention and an acknowledgment of some sort for being so “empathetic”. If the poster in question had virtually no relation at all to the individual who had passed away, that makes the matter even worse because it is just sickening to see someone take advantage of an awful event like that.

Death is not something to be celebrated or used to garner attention. We can look back on the memories that we had with the recently departed and laugh and smile in nostalgia, but using a tragic event to lift one’s self up in public is just deplorable. Whatever empathy a poster is trying to show off by making such remarks over the Internet is absolutely insincere and should be rebuked by all who view such material.

2 responses to “The Exploitation of Tragedy

  1. Colleen Carroll

    I definitely have similar views on this. I believe there is a toxicity to the use of social media to dramatize death for one’s own benefit. I see this culture actually go beyond death. Sometimes I see posts that are like “Look at the Random Horrifically Ill Child. Like if you think they are brave” and often these posts are on accounts that are clearly trying to just get as much virtual traffic as possible. While I know it is trying to hypothetically support this person, to me it definitely feels trivializing because it is clear that that child will never lay eyes on the post and see all the prayers.

    But, I do also agree that social media can be an important way of commemorating death. I have a friend who had a close friend commit suicide and yearly she does posts about how much she loved him. These are the types of posts that I think are appropriate and powerful. In fact, her posts, personally, always serve as a solemn reminder that anyone around you could be suffering, as well as you could mean the world to so many people around you. As always, social media is both a blessing and a curse.

  2. I completely agree with your take on exploiting a stranger’s death through social media outlets, in order to receive likes or retweets. I had a hard time, in general, understanding why people posted on social media for the death of their loved one’s until my friend passed away a year ago. I have dedicated multiple tweets to her and, at the moment, I was not really sure why. I thought it was because everyone else was doing it, but now I realize that it is because I want to keep her memory alive. I came to this realization a few days ago when my favorite teacher/ mentor from high school passed away. I decided to dedicate a post to him, but I had a goal in mind. I wanted the post to celebrate all the amazing things he did. I wanted the post to remind the school’s alumni how blessed they were to have had him in their lives. I wanted the post to show the world that he was the most selfless and kind human being I had ever known. At this point, I can finally say, I understand why people dedicate posts to the death of their loved ones on social media.

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