The death of a public figure, of an important member of the community has always been a big deal. In the sands of time, many a famous person has been given a grand departure of heartfelt public grief.
When ancient kings died, we would erect massive pyramids to contain their bodies, or when famous artists and scientists died, their peers would create works of art in tribute to their lives.
Now to 2016 — that year seems to have been cursed for public figures. It has been reported that twice the amount of artists, actors, spokesman and scientists have passed away in 2016 than the average of previous years. It’s apparent with the stream of Facebook posts expressing sorrow just how important these people were to the average fan’s life.
Despite having no formal connection to each other, it’s common for viewers to feel like they intimately know the celebrities they watch day in, day out. It can feel like the scrutiny of a camera allows you to see the subject’s soul for what it is. Unfortunately sometimes to the point where disturbed individuals will develop extreme obsession and a violent possessiveness towards their target celebrity.
While a tiny percentage of fans will cause those types of problems, the majority of people will be passively entertained. Celebrity idolization can be taken too far without a healthier sense-of-self in mind. As a lighter example, instead of computer science being made more attractive to young women, the zeitgeist is to focus on high fashion models and socialites, which can be hurtful to an entire generation. It sometimes feels like we care more about the thoughts of some random famous person with a Youtube channel than each other, talking face to face. And there’s something about that that becomes scary as we lose our ability to properly engage each other.
It might be a doom and gloom report about how the advent of technology is spoiling our ability to be good humans, but the reality is we’ve always had the celebrity obsession. It’s understandable that we would be moved by the death of those who created our favorite art or science. After all, we were moved by their lives.