This past week, social media has been filled with images and posts of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper who was shot dead outside his Los Angeles clothing store.
He went from an artist whose songs I’d seen briefly on Spotify playlists, to a community activist who I learnt so much about in a short space of time. Since his death, social media has played a huge role in telling the world what kind of man Hussle was. It’s allowed me to see the way in which he dedicated so much time, passion and resources into developing and nurturing his community for the better. The impact he had in his community and the industry is unquestionable, and he will be sorely missed by those that were close to him and influenced by him.
Social media has become a crucial medium which we use to react to death. Whether you are informing people of someone’s passing or expressing your grief, our social media channels have now become an instrumental tool in how we cope with death. We use it to source information about the deceased. For those of us left behind, it serves as a way to process our feelings surrounding the loss. Nipsey Hussle’s death has been no different. Immediately celebrities and members of his community took to social media sharing kind words about him and their interactions with him.
For the most part, fans and supporters have been using social media as you would expect in this situation. Yet within hours of the news first breaking, a video showing the exact moment Nipsey was murdered was circulating online. As if this wasn’t tragic enough, a video recording surfaced online a couple of days later showing his partner, Lauren London arriving at the hospital where Hussle was rushed to, in hysterics.
Thankfully neither video popped up on any of my feeds and I like to think that if anyone I follow had seen either video, they knew how traumatising it would be for others and actively chose not to share. Yet there seems to be enough people that were thoughtless enough to find these videos shareable, and such devastating moments worth recording and posting online.
Just a few weeks ago, we were all distressed by the news of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand where 50 Muslims were gunned down whilst praying in a mosque, all whilst the attacker was live streaming the incident on Facebook. What was even more shocking was the number of views and the amount the video was shared on social media in the aftermath, despite it’s tragic and devastating contents.
According to Facebook statistics, the graphic video of the attack was uploaded by users 1.5 million times in the first 24 hours. Due to automatic detection, Facebook was able to block many of those uploads but still left roughly 300,000 copies to spread around the platform. While the volume of the uploads across Facebook and Youtube is outstanding, it also says a lot about our collective desire to share such “trauma porn.”
We’re living in an age where instead of living in the present, we’re quick to snap and post instead of rationalising and being empathetic enough to consider whether what we’re doing is appropriate or not. Our ability to connect at such a fast speed and on a large scale is one that we celebrate, but is this actually becoming more detrimental than we may think? We’re so quick with the like, share and comment buttons, that it begs the question, has social media made us insensitive and desensitized towards death?
Furthermore, why is it when witnessing such “trauma porn” is the first reaction for many to share? It could be due to the proximity of contact we have with celebrities nowadays which makes some forget that they are normal people too and deserve the same etiquette both in life and death. Like our own loved ones that have passed, they too have left behind family and friends who would not want to see their final tragic moments being reposted.
Social media has become a double-edged sword of sorts in the way in which we deal with death. On the one hand, it’s a way for us to express our grief and sorrow for the loss of a loved one, and to even share the news of their passing. Yet we also have to look at how people have become somewhat careless in the manner in which they deal with such a situation. We can’t deny the influence social media has had on the way we grieve. Despite going through the same processes and stages as we’d normally do, we now have different means through which to do so. However, this doesn’t mean we should forget that we are dealing with real lives, emotions and sensitive situations.
Written by Aisha Rimi