This week I unexpectedly lost my best friend, platonic soulmate, and “every day” person. By “every day” person, I mean we had that special relationship where we told each other the little things that don’t seem important to anyone else. I find myself still wanting to text him every time something small happens. Having my entire world turned upside down in the matter of a day was difficult enough, but I never expected to be so horrified by the public response to his death.
I preface this by saying I know grief is not a competition. I know everyone handles death in their own way and has a right to respond to it as they will. I am at no point saying that anyone’s grief or expression of love toward someone is invalid or a lie. I only offer a perspective that I did not previously understand before losing someone so close, and know many people simply do not understand. My friend’s death was quickly publicized by the news, radio, and social media. Many people I was not even aware knew my best friend were suddenly expressing their unconditional love on all forms of social media. One stranger wrote “RIP” before he was even gone. Others shared stories about that one time they played a show with his band.
At this point, one might be thinking, “I don’t see the problem here. Everyone is expressing their love for the person. How is this insensitive?” It’s true, no one had a single bad thing to say. It was all sympathetic and positive and loving. So why does it bother me so much? The first reason is social media is simply an insincere platform. Expressing grief on social media is like writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall. If you’re really their friend, why aren’t you just calling or messaging them? My friend’s death has been turned into a #trend. Everyone feels the need to be publicly included in the grieving.
While there are many sincere people who loved my friend and still chose to post, there were many who used my friend’s death to draw attention to themselves. Posting a selfie with a caption telling everyone to “live life to the fullest and not regret anything” is insensitive. I question if some of my peers are more upset at the reality of death than the actual death. Even if they don’t realize it. Yes, I’m sure they are actually upset. Again, I’m not trying to invalidate people’s feelings. BUT, the choice to post self-centered posts that draw attention to themselves for the sake of getting likes makes me want to scream, “I HOPE MY BEST FRIEND’S DEATH IS GETTING YOU ALL OF THE LIKES YOU WANTED.”
Grief is the most personal and heart-wrenching experience in my life. Having all of my peers constantly make insensitive public posts is overwhelming and I feel like the worst experience in my life is being put on display. I find myself wanting to be territorial over my friend. It might not be a competition of who loved him most, but grief makes the griever irrationally emotional. It doesn’t have to be fair. It doesn’t have to be “right.” I feel what I feel, and what I feel is a lot of anger.
In a week, most of the people who made these posts will be able to continue their lives normally. I don’t get that. Those closest to him don’t get to go back to normal lives in the next week or month. At worst, they’ll think back about his death, be sad, and think “that was such a shame.” At best for me, I’ll make it through the day without crying every time I’m alone a year from now. All I want is for everyone to think before they post about the death of someone. It may be making the grieving experience worse for those closest to the person. I love you best friend. Forever.