Death Hoax

With the rise in use of social media it seems like every day some celebrity dies. It’s hard to keep track, and false information can travel fast.

With hashtags, likes and retweets now almost a human reflex, it’s so easy for things to get out of hand. Some people can start hoaxes and the masses start grieving for those not dead yet. It’s an odd idea that in this digital age we can simply put a hashtag in front of a message and it can convince a group of people that someone has died.

I remember a few years back when Michael Jackson died. My friend sent me a text saying something along the lines “OMG! Michael Jackson’s died!” Immediately I rolled my eyes, let out an exasperated sigh and replied with “quit lying to me.”

Obviously, I know now that Michael Jackson is well and truly dead, but with some celebrities I’m still not so sure. Perhaps what bothers me more than the idea of these hoaxed celebrities being dead is the idea of all this misplaced grief. It’s pouring out of people like rain and it’s not going anywhere, it’s not doing anything. It’s just there, floating around in cyberspace.

And sometimes it is premature. I mean, you wouldn’t start mourning your grandparent until you officially knew they were dead. I don’t understand why this should be any different.

It’s not just social media users spreading all these lies. Satirical sites are also to blame. As a journalist in training things like this irritate me. Don’t get me wrong, I like satire as much as the next person, but this sort of things gets on my nerves. One word is all it takes to induce mass hysteria. It happened recently with Betty White, when thousands of fans misread a story about her ‘hair dye’ job and in an explosion of tweets and Facebook messages the Internet declared her dead. One word and someone’s whole life can be ‘digitally terminated’ so to speak. I find it somewhat unsettling.

The more I think about it the more I feel that death hoaxes are disgusting. On a general level you’re lying about someone’s death. How is that acceptable? On an emotional level you’re playing with people’s feelings. People form an attachment to celebrities, and toying with these emotions can only have adverse effects. So why do it? What part of it seems like a good idea? These hoaxes need to stop.


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