Of Death and News Feeds

6 Oct

I have to find a way to deal with the shocking news of death in this crazy age of instant Interwebz magic.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been scrolling down a news feed and been smacked across the side of the head with the news that someone famous has died.   I know there’s really no good way to break the news of someone we all kind of feel linked to passing away, but at the same time it’s a little jarring to read “RIP (insert someone famous here), you will be missed” sandwiched between an update about a friend having to use the bathroom and another friend wanting a hoagie for dinner.

Steve Jobs died yesterday, in case you weren’t compulsively checking Twitter.

BAM.  Just like that, right?  Internet knowledge in your face.

It always sends me on a nice long Google/Wikipedia trail where I begin to soak up every little bit of knowledge I can about that person.  Did you know that Steve Jobs dropped out of college after one semester?  He later returned to audit a class.   It was Calligraphy.

There are all sorts of witty and wonderful things to say here.  Something in the fact that he returned to take a beautiful handwriting course when his contributions to the creation of the modern PC have led to oodles of kids not knowing how to write because they only know how to type.  Or even something about how this whole post is about being told abruptly of folks’ deaths via computer and was spawned by stumbling upon the passing of the man who “pioneered the concept of the Personal Computer” (CNN).

But all those witty wonderful things are eluding me.

I remember finding out that Heath Ledger died because a friend sent me a text.   I don’t know why it affected me so much.  There’s something incredibly heartbreaking to me about losing a young actor who showed so much promise.  I think it had a lot to do with the delivery as well.  After all, when I check a phone text I expect chit chat or quick questions.  I don’t expect “Hey, Heath Ledger died”.

When I was teaching at a performing arts camp a few summers go and we were all cut off from the use of our cell phones, there was a vicious rumor that Michael Jackson had died.  Of course, no one believed it.   Everyone thought it was someone taking advantage of the fact that we were without our technological verification devices.   Eventually on a session break, I was wandering around the area and saw a TV featuring the story.  That was my true confirmation.

That’s how I’m used to getting my news of high-profile deaths: from a big, talking box.  I’m used to a brightly colored ticker on the bottom of the screen wrapping it all up and pictures of the person’s life flashing in the background.  I’m used to a news anchor perfectly mastering the mix of sincerity and excitement to be on the breaking news of the day as they relay to me that someone I don’t know at all but feel strangely connected to has finally left this world.

Of course those who came before me were used to seeing it in headlines or hearing it on the radio, and try as I might I can’t imagine trying to cope with graduating from that to a talking box.

I wonder what the next step is.  Maybe we’ll all just get real time  news feeds tied to our brains.  We can have a little wire and receptor that shoots out of our ear.  You know, like Batty from Fern Gully?  

That way I can just get a robot voice in my head saying “(insert famous, shocking name here) has died” while I’m brushing my teeth.  Or maybe we can opt for the heart-attack free way of going about it – the voice can say “Good morning (insert your name here)!  I have some bad news today.  Please make your way to a seated position, hold yourself, and say ‘okay’ when you are ready to receive this information.”

Until then I’ll just have to hold myself and stay seated any time I check my news feed.  

You never know when a death will be sandwiched between dinner plans and bathroom tales. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Batty.



13 Responses to “Of Death and News Feeds”

  1. Neeka October 6, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    😦 So sad…I learned about it because my friend posted it as her status: “RIP STEVE JOBS!!! 😦 Best. MAN. EVER.”


    • Jackie October 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Yeah that was similar to the one that clued me in as well. So shocking to just stumble upon it like that.


  2. Samantha October 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    I like Apple products, but wouldn’t call myself a fan, so I had no idea he was even sick. All I knew was that he retired from Apple. It’s so sad, and amazing how inundated my twitter and Facebook feeds were directly after the fact.

    I always felt weird feeling connected to these famous people I’ve never met, it’s nice there are others who are the same way. 🙂


    • Jackie October 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Isn’t it funny? We don’t even know them really. Especially celebrities – we have no idea what they’re actually like and so often we forget that they’re just people too. Perhaps that’s part of the sting – the realization that they’re mortal.


      • Samantha October 11, 2011 at 1:05 am #

        That’s probably part of it. Especially since (for instance movie stars) can be seen still in the future through their movies, etc. and then it’s even harder to believe they’re mortal. it’s odd.


  3. Emily May October 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I only learnt about it today as I was listening to the news on the radio…

    It was shocking. It felt like a punch in the face. He and his amazing mind will be sorely missed. It’s like Michael Jackson – I cannot believe they’re gone. It’s just… ethereal. 😦


  4. pegoleg October 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I must admit, in these days of Facebook that has me worried on a personal level. I’ve thought if there were a death in the family that some family members might find out about it through Facebook before they could be all reached in person or on the phone.


    • Jackie October 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      I hate the race to the Facebook bomb drop. Engagements, sickness, accidents, deaths – any important news must be stifled until everyone important has been contacted in a much more (seemingly) decent way. Then the social media frenzy over it can begin. That’s a lot of stress to carry for an already stressful situation.


  5. whatimeant2say October 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    It hit me over the head like a brick too. I was using my NPR app last night on my iPad, and there it was. I watched his Stanford speech today, and it really struck me as truly admirable and inspirational. He made a big mark on this world.


    • Jackie October 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      It’s kind of overwhelming when you think that one person could create so much. Was it a fluke in the human race? Do people like this really only come around every once in a while or is it that they’re around a lot more often and don’t have the right circumstances lined up?


  6. Jules October 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Even though I’m proud of the fact that I don’t drink the Apple kool-aid and the cult like following of his products, much respect must be given to Jobs. He’s a good guy.

    Back in 2010, he got Arnold to pass a bill for a live donor registry for kidney transplants. California is the first state the nation to have this.


    • Jackie October 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      Hey I didn’t know this! Thanks for the info


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