We hear endless chatter about how social media has changed the world, but there’s one aspect of this phenomenon that nobody’s talking about. Used to be you’d have to open the newspaper or turn on the news to find out that one of society’s luminaries had passed on, but nowadays all you need to do is look at your phone to learn that one of your Facebook friends is deep in mourning over the death of a recurring actor she used to watch on Petticoat Junction.
Social media has turned everyone into an obit writer. I, myself, waxed wistfully over the passings of Levon Helm and Doc Watson, as did many others. Afterward, I felt guilty about it. Why? Because thanks to Facebook, there’s just a glut of wistful waxing. From obscure 80′s rock bassists to politicians who spent their entire careers in the pockets of lobbyists, all of them “will be deeply missed.”
Now don’t get me wrong –I have nothing against honoring the dead. I just think there’s a difference between memorializing people we knew or the artists who truly moved us, and simply being the first to announce the celebrity death du jour. But the rabid RIP-ers seem to be in some kind of a race. The explanation — dare I speak its name? Being number one to the finish line with an RIP is a subtle form of SELF-PROMOTION, ie: “You won’t believe who died and see how much I’m missing him before you even got the chance to?”
As both a self-promoter and a hater of self-promotion, I am especially qualified to be the bearer of this awful news. I am also fully cognizant that taking this stand will discourage anyone from posting my Facebook obituary when the time comes. Nevertheless, I would now like to take this opportunity to wish a long and healthy life to all the non-original members of the re-formed Canned Heat.