Most of us would consider our lives largely internet based. There are people whose entire jobs, school, existences can be found purely online. Just as we have developed a common language of communication through this medium, we have also developed a common language of grief.
I'll be the first to admit, sometimes public and social media grief can feel exhausting. There is a tendency to weigh in with a (usually) inaccurate hot take that accompanies the obligatory "thoughts and prayers" tweet. But, as we become more practiced in our public grief, it is obvious that this is an essential part of a very tough process. Anyone who tells you not to grieve in this way is beyond wrong.
Over the weekend (June 10th, 2016), singer Christina Grimmie was fatally shot after a show in Orlando, Florida. Hours later, a man named Omar Mateen walked into LGBTQ nightclub, Pulse, (also in Orlando) and killed 49 people. The grief surrounding both of these events is immense and certainly invokes an inescapable feeling of despair. Unfortunately, we have all gotten pretty damn good at processing this grief. Especially on the internet.
Christina's death hit home hard. She was one of us. She cut her teeth on YouTube and followed her dreams all the way to a national platform. Since her passing, the outpouring has been immense. In keeping with her background as a YouTube star, many of her peers have shared tributes to her memory--a fitting memoriam for the talented singer.
When we lose a talented musician, the grief takes the form of heartfelt tributes, shared memories, and inspiring stories. We saw it with Prince and David Bowie earlier this year, and now with Christina. The loss weighs heavily but cannot be extracted from the nature of internet culture. So, in keeping with that, the grief looks like powerful tweets, fan art, and other creative ways of expressing sorrow.
every time I see a headline, or tweet, or newscast about @TheRealGrimmie I feel an ache so deep. i feel so many emotions, its just not right— Tiffany Alvord (@TiffanyAlvord) June 14, 2016
image via http://hachiko-art.tumblr.com/
Similarly, the calculated attack against LGBT nightclub, Pulse, has sent massive ripples across the internet. These deaths have not only inspired heartfelt expressions of grief, but also furious calls for change and accountability.
In this instance, grief is not only gut wrenching, but also cathartic and mobilizing. Through the utter shock and disbelief over the gruesome attack, there have been dozens of coordinated gatherings and vigils to honor the victims, likely organized online.
Lady Gaga speaks at Orlando United Vigil, says the shootings were an "attack on humanity" pic.twitter.com/w3gt6xENyO— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) June 14, 2016
#LoveWins and #gaysbreaktheinternet trended on Twitter for hours and has inspired many to come out, in part, as a show of defiance and solidarity.
It's hard to ditch the cynicism around online grief, but sometimes grieving online can give way to great things. It can inspire art, stories, and a move toward change. It can also inspire the will to embrace the freedom associated with living your best and truest life. It's hard not to feel like your heart is broken for each and every victim, but these ways of expressing solidarity are now essential parts of how we move forward and enact change.