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The Internet Response To Michael Jackson's Sudden Death


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 10:59 AM

I am the same age as Michael Jackson. As I write this, his autopsy is taking place. My emotions have gone from being stunned to grief to anger to sad and then from there, there's just this constant feeling of disbelief. When I first heard the news on MJ, I went to Twitter and my TV.

I lasted about 15 minutes on Twitter because it was a source of outrage. Everyone wanted to be the first to say for sure MJ was dead. Danny Sullivan and I were noticably trying to be objective, while seekig and awaiting a valid, formal statement. Being in CA, I was sure Danny would tap into a solid source quickly. As we all waited and watched as Twitter just lit up on fire with people coming online to find news, "Oh! Magazine declared MJ dead on their website, and TMZ and a source in LA also declared him dead, whilst CNN and FOX news were still waiting for a hospital statement.

In death, MJ was given little privacy, the same as his life. While waiting for the news, photos and video were pouring out of him being taken into the ambulance. One photo sold to an entertainment corp showed his face on the stretcher surrounded by those trying to revive him. My sense is that he was already gone by then.

While those on the ground and in the air were trying to get his last moments on film, Twitter was crazy. Thousands of "Tweets" per second were coming in regarding MJ. Among the shock were also those who took issue with his alleged sexual conduct with young boys. For some people, this part of MJ's life overshadowed every single one of his accomplishments.

One person said they would "unfollow" anyone using the "RIP Michael Jackson" hash tag in their tweets because he was an alleged pedophile. Others zeroed in on this topic and reminded folks that he was a criminal and that O.J. Simpson was also acquitted. Others felt that it is nonsense to put any energy into mourning his death when "real heroes" around the world are dying.

And then, I saw someone tell a friend to "f-off" for her opinion. And that's when I closed my laptop.

Grieving on a Grand Scale

I could barely function when John Lennon was shot down. I was in college and most classes were empty or quite small. I had to get to campus because I worked there too, but I wore all black. I was close to crying all day. As a Broadcast Journalism student, for a week I walked around with a tape recorder and recorded discussions, debates, music and TV news reports regarding Lennon's passing.

When Lennon died, the same thing happened that is happening now to MJ. So many people thought Lennon was a nut job, or they hated Yoko. Folks like me, raised on the Beatles and each of them as solo artists, were remembering the music. I shared a rented farmhouse with 5 other housemates, all fellow students. Discussions and debates with us and folks who came over were stimulating and often emotionally charged. Some of my house mates were quite smart and articulate and had strong opinions, but at no time in all our discussions did anyone put anyone down for their opinions. Everybody had a right to their feelings. As a group, we honored Yoko's 3 minutes of silence, poured wine and mediated on Lennon.

I saw little of that respect on Twitter. I realized that if I shared my own thoughts on MJ, I would be attacked and challenged, rather than given the right to feel or share anything. It seemed perfectly fine to be angry and against MJ.

If I wanted to find a place where everyone was welcome to grieve together, Twitter was not on the list.

I was late to my son's baseball game because I was waiting for CNN or FOX News to give a statement. It didn't come, so I went on to the game. As I joined the other parents, all of whom I've known for years and consider my friends, they were all in shock about MJ. Several of them I know to be very conservative, and though they acknowledged the confusing, bizarre, and dangerous events and behaviors, everyone loved his music. I am the only one of them who Twitters. They all think Twitter is strange and can't figure out why anyone would want it, but they know my work and why I use it. While watching our boys playing, I tapped into Twitter again via my cell phone, got final verification that MJ was gone, shared that with the parents and then I turned off Twitter.

My experience is one tiny event. Others have likely had much different, and opposite experiences with Twitter or social networking when discussing topics that can erupt into explosive, angry dialog. Politics is one example. Religion is another.

I admit to being conflicted and curious about the difference between losing Lennon, in an age of no Internet at all, and losing Michael Jackson, where the Internet was part of the whole event. With Lennon, we had to get together with people in the same room or talk on the phone (no cell phones, no texting). We listened to one another. Debate skills were necessary and so was having an open mind.

Social networking and the Internet are tools that may have changed how we talk to each other. Are people less tolerant of other views because they don't have to listen to all sides now? They can follow and un-follow and join groups where everyone thinks and feels the same and close out those who don't meet their criteria.

What are you seeing and experiencing out there? Are you content with how social networking is working and how people are adapting/evolving/changing?

#2 jonbey

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:12 AM

I had a headache after catching the train with a bunch of school kids. Generally I try my best to avoid these things. I think that mostly, people do not really care about Michael Jackson. However, in these situations, the minority get very active, very emotional and think that the whole world has come to an end, and think that everyone should hear their opinion above all others. In a way it brings out the true colours of the whole social media thing.

What cheery thoughts before I head home for the weekend!

#3 Walter

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:16 PM

Are people less tolerant of other views because they don't have to listen to all sides now? They can follow and un-follow and join groups where everyone thinks and feels the same and close out those who don't meet their criteria.


Couldn't people always refuse to listen and couldn't they could always join groups where everyone thought and felt the same way? Is that always wrong? I think that the internet, because of its more anonymous nature, has weakened the social and cultural constraints that were operating at the time of the historical events you mentioned as well at those contraints that still operate in face to face situations or where the percieved anonimity is not as great.

I remain skeptical of Twitter as an agent of change, but readily aknowlege it as a barometer of the current state of our culture.

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:43 PM

Couldn't people always refuse to listen and couldn't they could always join groups where everyone thought and felt the same way?


Good point Walter. :D

I've always naturally sought out education and opinion from every source, unrestricted. For me, the worst thing is to turn off/shut down/close off/hide.

Perhaps what's happening is the Internet enabled groupings in a grander, larger scale and I'm having a harder time finding an non-judgmental environment.

#5 iamlost

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:18 PM

Think for a moment about the last coffee shop full of people you were in. Each table yacking about all sorts of things with various pov. Even though everyone is actually speaking in public they talk as if their table/conversation is (semi-)private. Now throw in the death of a community eccentric or abuse of power by a local official. Think of the types of comments and conversation threads you'd overhear. Now expand to every coffee shop everywhere. Twitter.

#6 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:34 PM

Keyword being "Conversation".

For me, there is no conversation when name calling and threats to take some type of action against someone for their opinion occurs. The conversing stops then, the walls go up, and everybody goes to their corner.

So on Twitter, it's indeed as some of us had been saying from the beginning, and that is that it's like being a fly on a wall, listening to everyone talking. When there is big news, Twitter is where I went first, but it was difficult to find the fact from hysteria, news from the entertainment sites pushing to be first, mixed in with real human comments of all sorts.

So I guess what happens next is that Twitter will break out into groups (rooms) and if you don't fit a certain set of criteria, you can't get into that room.

#7 Ron Carnell

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:43 PM

For me, there's not a big difference between the death of Lennon in 1980 and Jackson's death 29 years later. I received the sad news last night the same way I did nearly three decades ago.

What's Twitter? :D

#8 Walter

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:46 PM

Ron,


You don't have a twitter? All the cool kids do. I've got a spare, still in the package, I could let you have it for only 19.99 you can pay through paypal or send a check to...

#9 DonnaFontenot

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 02:20 PM

Twitter is just a microcosm of real life.

In my very own household, where no one but me twitters, the conversations were exactly the same as those on twitter. And yes, some of them were ridiculing others for their thoughts on the matter. People are people no matter where they are, or what they are using as a means of communication. With that humanness, comes good, bad, tolerance, intolerance, and everything in between.

#10 AbleReach

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 02:55 PM

One person said they would "unfollow" anyone using the "RIP Michael Jackson" hash tag in their tweets because he was an alleged pedophile. Others zeroed in on this topic and reminded folks that he was a criminal and that O.J. Simpson was also acquitted. Others felt that it is nonsense to put any energy into mourning his death when "real heroes" around the world are dying.

Kim, you must follow a lot of SEOs. I hear they're a rowdy bunch. ;-)

I saw a lot of exclamations of disbelief - can't believe he's gone, he's my age, and also the uglier ones. I tend to ignore the uglier ones, or if they're consistently ugly they get unfollowed. Mostly, there were hundreds of little messages on the line of "OMG Michael Jackson is dead."

On plurk it was about the same, except that what sticks to the wall and turns into a thread tends to have a little more regard for the topic -- not much, because in a lot of cases this is still the equivalent of waving out the window while someone whose car you may know drives by. Plurk threads tended to develop around concern for the family and acknowledging your own mortality. There's not a lot you can say to "RIP motherf*****," and who'd want to try to get a conversation out of that?

Maybe I'm pretty good at filtering out the noise. It just does not interest me very much. I used to be drawn in by it, like the car wreck you can't keep from staring into, but now, if I even look to read it, it's more on the line of checking the weather.

#11 SEOigloo

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 03:09 PM

I respect everyone's authentic feelings, but I just can seem to relate to how many people appear to feel about celebrities. This may be the way I was raised. It seems to me that famous people are exalted to the skies, then torn down when something weird or awful is exposed about them and then, when they die, their deaths become some type of commercial property. I think about all of those decorative dinner plates with Elvis on them and that these have a deep meaning to people and I just don't get it. Or those TV commercials they resurrected the image of John Wayne in.

All cultures have interesting ways of treating death, but when it comes to famous people, our culture's way feels sort of scary to me. Like an obsession.

I suppose it makes sense if an artist's offerings come to symbolize powerful things in one's personal life, that one would be sad if that artist died (I feel freaked out whenever I see a VanGogh paintings because I once read about how he committed suicide in an empty field) but it would freak me out even more if he'd been swarmed by photographers taking pictures of his last moments to sell and trying to cut off pieces of his hair to auction off on eBay. A little like that bizarre medieval tradition of people pawning off pieces of 'the true cross' to European Christians.

Why does our society behave this way about famous people...people none of them have actually known? I honestly don't understand.

I'm not on Twitter so I can't really comment on it, but I see that this man's death is topping Google News today, and I suppose this is likely to take the same route as the death of Elvis. On the one hand, Kim is expressing that she feels real sorrow about this, but on the other hand you've got people doing ghoulish things like profiting off the dying man's photographs. Donna must be right in that a whole spectrum of humanity is involved. On Twitter, and everywhere else.

Edited by SEOigloo, 26 June 2009 - 03:11 PM.


#12 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 03:10 PM

I really must be an idealist :frustration:

In my world, you don't tell someone who is grieving to go "f-off" when they express themselves. Had the "conversation" occurred face to face, would that type of exchange happened?

These forums have been around a long time. If we allowed "conversations" like that one here, most of us would have left and indeed, have done so, in search of forums where bickering and winning arguments are the goal.

And yes, Liz. I was watching the search marketing folks twittering. :D

#13 AbleReach

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 03:22 PM

In my world, you don't tell someone who is grieving to go "f-off" when they express themselves. Had the "conversation" occurred face to face, would that type of exchange happened?

Maybe in rush hour, stuck in stop-and-go traffic, more-or-less accidentally cutting off someone with a screaming baby in the car, who is being cut off by someone on a cell phone to a tired and grumbling ex, and it'd be done with rude hand gestures. Don't that let color your reality too awfully much.

#14 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 04:06 PM

My college age daughter just called me and we spoke a bit about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett's deaths. My daughter and her boyfriend have been bombarded with cell phone spam texts that are cruel sick jokes at MJ's expense.

She can't understand why people would do this.

#15 SEOigloo

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 01:54 PM

Kim,
I'm so sorry this has been so upsetting for you and your family. I hate that.

#16 cre8pc

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 02:19 PM

I look at it as a learning experience for her and am pleased she has such compassion. I know she is completely non-judgmental, so like me, it's very hard to relate to those who point and laugh.

I saw the same jokes she was telling me about appear on Twitter.

It's not that I'm puritan or clueless. It's BECAUSE I've had so many experiences, brutal and life wrecking, that I dislike watching people unable to get along. It's much harder to negotiate a peaceful path than take the lazy way out and just be miserable :)

#17 EGOL

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 02:34 PM

Although lots of people were out searching for Michael Jackson, the number that might go to the web after an event like 9/11 would probably be higher if it happened today. I don't have any data on what web traffic was like when that occurred but it would probably be magnified today because of how much faster people relay information online today and how much faster the online connectivity alerts other media.

Michael Jackson crashing websites might be a wake-up call to get more capacity in place.

#18 jonbey

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 03:07 PM

Yeah, I remember hearing about 9/11 in London as one of the chaps on the dividends desk (I work in a bank as well as run a leading health and fitness website :) ) was on the phone to someone in New York at the time. Not even sure if we looked on the internet at that time. What year was it? 2001? We would have had internet at work, so I guess we would heave looked at news papers. But nothing else. No twittering or blogging!

What did the first mainstream blogs spring up? Like Blogger and Wordpress?

#19 AbleReach

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 03:57 PM

Blogger (1999) was around in 2001. WordPress wasn't, though it had predecessors that were - b2, I think? Social media, per se, hadn't happened yet. Bookmarking was on the horizon - Technorati started up in 2002, Del.ici.ous in 2003. Chat has been around since "online" meant bbs, but it's certainly more mainstream now.

#20 A.N.Onym

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 12:58 AM

I have witnessed the waves of information about MJs death in Twitter: particularly, since when it started, to when confirmations appeared (and which sources got it first, etc).

I can't say that Twitter was shocking: it simply displayed the complete array of people and their emotions. So I've seen anything from "RIP Michael Jackson, you were a star" to (I'll unfollow anyone, who says RIP MJ, because he's an "'accused' child molester"), disregarding the fact that he was acquitted (or so the TV told me).

It's after I have grieved and settled more or less with the news, that my father commented on the TV announcement. He did say it in way that conveyed that he's almost the same age.

Would Twitter change anything for me? Probably not. I did get a reminder to listen to "Thriller", but probably won't do it. Would I change my mind about MJ? No, guess not. Twitter did speed up news to me, because TV was 6-12 hours late with the news.

It seems like Twitter is a sandbox in a kindergarten: everyone can say what he thinks, how he wants it, but he'll get adequate response and will get/lose friends on that, too.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 28 June 2009 - 12:59 AM.


#21 fisicx

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 05:49 AM

It's the celebrity thing that sticks in the throat more than anything. Nobody I've spoken to over the last few days really cares that Michael Jackson is dead, this isn't being disrespectful it's just that people die of heart attacks every day and nobody even mentions their name. If he wasn't so notorious then his death would have just been a few lines in the news - much like all the other 'celebrities' who have been living quietly enjoying their retirement.

I suspect that many of those twittering aren't actually grieving about the death of the singer. All they are doing is regurgitating existing news, no original content.

#22 Adrian

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:43 AM

I find all the gushing about it rather irritating and insincere in a lot of cases anyway.

These things happen and suddenly it's all you hear about. It's all over the news, every music channel is doing an MJ tribute, people are spamming the web about it right left and center..... It's just too much, and I don't see the need for everyone to announce to the world that they're sad about it. Someone pointed out to me a ludicrous statement on the CNN website I think it was. A big bold headline saying he was dead, and then small text underneath saying it was unconfirmed at that point. Everyone wants to shout out the headline, but it's just sensationalist.

I've completely avoided Twitter(I really don't see the point), but the effect was still seen to a certain extent on Facebook. Posting something like "RIP MJ" or whatever isn't equivalent to having a chat round a coffee table with a few friends and sharing the news, it's more like going out in the middle of the street and shouting it. Multiply that many times as everyone does the same, and it just loses its meaning.

If you're going to shout about it to everyone, expect some responses from people with differing opinions, who may be a bit fed up with the constant shouting about it from all corners.

That's not to say you shouldn't express your feelings if you want to. But if you're going to do it very publically, don't expect everyone to feel the same way.

#23 cre8pc

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 11:28 AM

There are many reasons to grieve and I think many people don't understand how one death can affect someone. In my case, it is the combination of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and then yesterday we lost another popular American, Bill Mays.

Farrah was in her early 60's and MJ and BM were both 50. I just turned 51. MJ would have turned 51 soon.

I began to understand and have sympathy for my parents generation. They have lost the people they grew up with, including the pioneers of TV and radio. Every death is a reminder of days gone by and may be, for some, a time for reflection on our own selves. I can look at all the MJ moments and recall where I was then, because I grew up with him.

It's a real turn off to see how the news media and social internet reacts to celebrity deaths, but also how they promote and support those who are happy to exploit the medium. There doesn't seem to be a place to mourn or grieve online without the atmosphere becoming polluted. That's why I stayed offline all weekend.

Yura, yes. I agree about the sandbox. And as a child, I rarely ever joined children playing because I knew they would be judgmental or that I would have to conform to fit in. I would sit and watch those in the sandbox rather than try to join. I guess I still do that :)

#24 glyn

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 03:57 PM

Donna let me modify "Twitter is just a microcosm of [a form of] real life" - there are lots of types.

For me MJ was the groovemaster, it was always about the music and he just delivered the magic. Magic being defined as listening to the tracks again and getting a glow. Now you have one of the World's great tolerated mysteries, the about turn of critics to admirers...and so continues the music industry, and so too does my care to listen to the commentary that isn't being delivered by anything other than my speakers.

Enjoy :)

#25 Jem

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 04:20 PM

I'm glad I missed the Twitter rush, because I have a feeling I'd have said something and ended up in deep water rather than ignoring the mass of ignorant idiots that seem to congregate when events like this happen.

I have never in my life been bothered by a celebrity death. I don't know them, and while I feel for their family, find it hard to "connect" with their loss. However, on this occasion I really felt sad about MJ passing. Perhaps I feel it because I know my late brother was a big big fan, and he too would have been gutted. Perhaps it's just because MJ was an icon, always on the TV when I was a kid and I have those memories. I'm not sure.

Either way, I know that despite his flaws, he was human and he deserves respect for his achievements and peace in his passing.

#26 jonbey

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 05:31 PM

Apart from last Friday morning when I got a train with school kids, not heard anything (other than the bloody news).

I assume that most people either do not care, or think it is cooler to not mention it.

#27 A.N.Onym

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 12:42 AM

Well, the rush hour to grab the traffic from mentioning MJ has passed, so they've cooled down (or its the calm before the storm, when more detailed programs will be run). Also, people might be listening to MJ now, instead of talking about him (just check the bestseller list on Amazon, I heard its all MJ).

#28 Walter

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 02:50 AM

No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, (Not Hemingway, the thief)

Feelings for the sadness of another is a sign of humanity, realizing that his/her failures are within us all is wisdom.

Walter

P.S. Thank goodness I got to this and edited it before some of the sharper minds in the group got to it, ( and yes you can read "AbleReach" here), because it bugged me from the time I posted it in until now. I distictntly remembered it being from a sermon or a meditation, not a sonnet as I originally posted, it does in fact come from Meditation 17 from "Emergent Occasions". Who and Why it could be found on the internet as a sonnet is the subject of an entirely dif post. Ugly website....fine I can live with that, mis-attributing one of my fav poets..... unacceptable.

Edited by Walter, 01 July 2009 - 03:51 AM.


#29 Walter

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 03:14 AM

And...

"the hours between the coming of night and the coming of dawn belong to tellers of tales and the singers of songs"


Author unknown to me, probably a drunk Irishman though.


Walter :)

#30 jonbey

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 03:45 AM

The saddest thing is that his death as boosted sales so much that all his money problems have probably evaporated already.



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