Life is all about all kinds of emotions and recently, I have been thinking a lot about how we deal with death and grief on social media.
This blog is an updated and abbreviated version of something I wrote shortly after Robin William’s death, and this is why #5 = Robin.
The news of Robin Williams’ death on Monday August 11, 2014 shocked the world. That this news created an overwhelming sense of sadness at the loss of someone whom I had never personally met was at first a bit incomprehensible. Why did this loss affect me so? Then I wandered onto my Facebook page to the onslaught of commentary of Rest In Peace and video clips of this man who touched so many people on so many levels. I then realized that he had been a part of my social conscious for almost 40 years. I felt the need to honor this man. I also found it fascinating and somewhat frightening how social media reported and reacted to his death.
Social media will be changed forever due to bad behavior. Twitter quickly re-vamped its user protection policies after a few horrible people posted things to Robin’s daughter Zelda’s account. “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter,” Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement, “We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”
Zelda herself had the last word though, “To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.”
Robin starred as lead in numerous films, not all of them comedic roles. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of professor Sean Mcguire in Good Will Hunting. Of course it’s mainly the comedies that most remember, especially Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin got social media, always had a joke at the ready, and himself tweeted his photo as Mrs. Doubtfire in response to a certain someone showing up at the Met Gala one year wearing a dress that Robin claimed, he “wore it better!” As always, perfect timing.
Dead Poets Society (John Keating) – 1989
“Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
Dead Poets Society is one my favorite films and one I have watched too many times to count. Ironically, the deep roles Robin played often revolved around dealing with suicide. How strange and very sad that some of the funniest humans have the heaviest hearts.
The news, the tributes and internet chatter about Robin’s death not only allowed people to grieve openly together, it also allowed people to speak out about their own struggles with depression. The silence about mental illness and depression must end. We must have those difficult conversations about a topic that generations have tried to sweep under the rug. Everyone I know has in one way or another been affected by suicide and, unfortunately, many of us with more than one loss due to suicide throughout our lives.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 38,000 people die by suicide every year, and 750,000 more attempt suicide. More people die by suicide annually throughout the world than death by war, murder and natural disasters combined. These staggering numbers makes one reel. How can we prevent these numbers from continuing to increase?
Robin’s death prompted many people who had never spoken about their issues to open up, and more amazingly is that they have done so in a very public forum on the internet. The dialogue needs to continue. Everyone needs to understand that there is no shame in having depression. Start talking. Speak openly and honestly, reach out and talk with someone. Find someone to trust who can be there for support whenever you need it.