Join the Facebook Death Patrol™!

By Mick Stingley

Maurice Sendak and Adam Yauch were beloved figures, and their passings surprised and saddened the world. What was more surprising than their deaths, however, was the instantaneous outpouring of shock and sympathy from around the world. Seconds after their hearts stopped beating, scores of celebrities and thousands of normal people were Tweeting their condolences. Facebook was in flux.

This is nothing new for Facebook. Whenever a celebrity dies, the internet goes berserk. Rather than thoughtfully nod and respectfully remain stoic in the face of adversity, people immediately turn to social media in an act of virtual keening. In the so-called age of over-sharing, everyone is entitled to display his or her mood ring.

Social media is often criticized as an egotistical empire of navel-gazing poppycock, but when it comes to the death of famous people it is a news source and a sanctuary for self-expression! Twitter offers limited space with only enough room for pithy aphorisms and trite homilies. But with Facebook you can mourn someone’s death incessantly; and to help people stay ahead of the curve, I am launching The Facebook Death Patrol™.

The Facebook Death Patrol™ is simply a public assembly of Facebook members, not limited to any one body or group, that heralds the death of a celebrity as quickly and as often as possible before the mainstream press has engaged the story. The Facebook Death Patrol™ is without formal leadership and beyond moderation, the purpose of which is solely to advance and promote the individual or group who announced it. Anyone can join in and everyone should!

Confronting celebrity death is never easy, especially when everyone needs to share an opinion as quickly as possible. Using an interconnected stream of information gathered and disseminated by members, the The Facebook Death Patrol™ posts about a celebrity death. It may be considered “untimely,” “shocking,” and “a real tragedy;” and the death may have occurred “after a lingering battle,” “too soon,” or in some cases, “unsurprisingly.” In all instances the death is unequivocally ruled by the The Facebook Death Patrol™ as being “so sad.”

In order to better understand the heterogeneous array of reactions to a death and the importance of posting quickly about it, new members should first familiarize themselves with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. They are: Denial: (”I can’t believe this!”); Anger (“I am outraged!”); Bargaining (“If only I could change this!”); Depression (“I am crushed.”); and Acceptance (“I have come to terms with this.”). While the Kübler-Ross model is not meant to be sequential, these stages provide a template for understanding the motivation and response of the The Facebook Death Patrol™:

Facebook’s Five Stages of Grief:

- Primary: “I am the first person here to post about this. I am well-informed and saddened by the loss of this person.”

- Secondary: “Here is a link to an article or a video about this person. I remain saddened by this passing.”

- Tertiary: “I am going to tell you a long story about myself to truly express my sadness.”

- Quaternary: “I will comment on this passing then comment on other comments.”

- Quinary: “I am going to sign off now, as I am too pained to continue. I might tell you another story later. Let us now remember this wonderful person, (and that I posted first).”

Applying this model to Facebook will inspire confidence and action when faced with the untimely passing of a beloved celebrity. It is first and foremost always about the member. Announcing a celebrity checked out with a link to a breaking news item generates more attention if emphasized with the classical Latin acronym, “R.I.P.,” followed by a series of hearts. Whenever possible link to a video on YouTube, as people love to watch videos as much as they love to latch on to the grief of others in a self-aggrandizing way.

The Facebook Death Patrol™ will advance the cause of individual liberty through sincere self-expression. It’s not just about somebody famous dying; it’s that they died and you should be recognized. Personal anecdotes that focus on you shift the focus from the deceased in order to elevate the general mood! Did you once meet a celebrity for five minutes and feel like you knew them your whole life? What some people might perceive as supercilious nonsense about your brush with greatness can also be inspiring or prosaic! To paraphrase the great Jodi Picoult, (who is still alive): “Death is not a because, it's a no matter what.” To join The Facebook Death Patrol™ is to celebrate life and the death of celebrities. Which is always about you!

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