Within minutes of the news of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s passing in a fiery helicopter crash, social media platforms began filling with condolence posts about the terrible tragedy. The prayers and praises of sports celebrities, team mates, family and friends, and even President Trump, were littered across Twitter and Facebook like debris after a trailer park tornado strike.
But a day later the inevitable reaction set in, with Twitter and Facebook posts wondering about using social media platforms to ‘join the bandwagon’ of mourners for a great athlete recognized as also a great human being. The death of the sports legend, along with that of his daughter, was considered so shocking to many that the fact of complete strangers posting pathetic and poorly constructed tributes and condolences before their bodies were even in their caskets seemed to many a ghoulish attempt at self-promotion, not true sympathy.
The negative reaction was strong, and somewhat understandable. In this day and age of instant information gratification and emotional infantilism, where friends want to engage with friends at any time of the day or night to share their emotions and insights — and the same is sadly true of complete strangers, who feel the need to post the first thing that comes to their mind about celebrities of any kind who they feel they ‘know’ on some mystic level. This is a bigger problem than just condolences that might seem inappropriate or self-serving when someone like Kobe Bryant passes away. It begs the question: Does the world have the right or responsibility to comment on every passing event, even when it is both tragic and hugely disturbing? There is no easy answer to that query. Only a variety of opinions.
Social media analysts say that while many platforms can deal with serious subject matter in an appropriate and responsible way, there is always the possibility of sociopaths and other maladjusted people using social media to create posts that break the social contract that keeps social communication informative and useful.