Nothing Compares 2 U

April 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Get in the sea 2016!

Did 2016 not pay it’s electricity bill?

2016 – the year everyone cool died

Etc. etc.

There is a shared consciousness on the internet that suggests this year is being particularly harsh in taking away beloved celebrities.  Stephen Fry must be checking his blood pressure daily as a result. The more interesting phenomenon that is happening is a collective fear of mortality.  More specifically a fear of our parents mortality.

The ONS states that 16-54 year olds are the most frequent internet users but you look closely at the data what you see is that the key group is 16-34 year olds as roughly 99% of them use the internet daily.  If we assume (rather offensively) that the 16 – 24 year olds are using it to boast about how much they drink and swipe along on Tinder then the content driven writing on the internet is dominated by people on either side of 30.  Which means their parents are roughly speaking on either side of 60.  And what do all the celebrities who have died recently have in common?  Prince (57), Victoria Wood (62), David Gest (62), Alan Rickman (69) and of course David Bowie (69).  Some deaths are older such as Ronnie Corbett (85), Denise Robertson (83), Paul Daniels (77), Frank Kelly (77), Terry Wogan (77).  But then again some of those hanging about on the internet are also older.  And with the exception of Terry Wogan the response to those deaths has been slightly different to the others in my list.

Average life expectancy in the UK is 81, across the globe it’s 71. Yes these people are dying young but not to the point where it’s unbelievable.  An average is of course an average – some are above and some are below. The peak age of cancer diagnosis is 69 to 74. Most of the deaths above were caused by cancer.  What were are looking at is stark normal facts about death in this day and age.  So why does the internet react so angrily?  It’s not just a response to the wonderful careers of these individuals (well most of them – I won’t be spiteful enough to point out which ones I’m pointing fingers at), it is an outpouring of grief that is normally reserved for those who are taken in a violent incident in their 20s.  Why the true grief response?

When I was about 7 or 8 years old I found my parents will in the filing cabinet (yes I was the sort of 7 year old who went through filing cabinets and could read what I found there and understood it.  I’m that nerdy).  It was the first proper understanding of mortality I ever had and I wept inconsolably for hours.  Luckily my mother (who does not ever want to be mentioned on the internet so don’t tell her!) is fabulous and said all the right things. Those of us who have lost a parent know how traumatic and challenging it is but we all at some point have known the fear of losing our parents.  The inevitable truth that at some point our parents have to die is upsetting and challenging to face.  So I propose that the collective 30 someethings of the internet, as they come closer to facing this truth, are transferring their helplessness and anger onto the death of Prince and David Bowie.  These figures they grew up worshipping, adoring and respecting for their wisdom and talent.  Sure they did stupid things at times but we still looked up to them. And in losing them we look at our parents and realise they will not be around forever either.

I know a lot of angry cynical people – the type who will go on the internet and abuse these people for suggesting they are upset over the death of a celebrity.  Before they do so I think they should consider the deeper meaning for this grief.  In reality they are not just upset over the celebrity – they are fearing the mortality of their parents and that is totally reasonable.  So cut them some slack.


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