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When An Artist Like Prince Passes Away, Social Media Is What Helps Thousands Of People Cope With The Loss Article Cover Picture

When An Artist Like Prince Passes Away, Social Media Is What Helps Thousands Of People Cope With The Loss

The Prince is dead. Long live the Prince.

I’ll be honest: I never heard much of Prince’s music, and I was never truly affected by whatever little I did, so — tragic as his passing at just 57 is — I don’t feel that sense of profound personal loss that a lot of people are feeling. That said, I do understand his role in popular music and the quality of his art; I doubt if it’d be wrong to suggest he belonged to the pantheon of “greats”. Right now, “Prince” is trending on both Facebook and Twitter, and there’s an outpouring of grief and affection for him. Theories on his death are circulating, as are rumours about the unreleased music he’s left us with. Op-eds calling him a charlatan haven’t yet begun, but they should any second now. Conspiracy theories about him still being alive are getting quashed as we speak.

Prince Inline Image 1By jimieye from flickr.com

All over Facebook and Twitter, people — friends and “friends” of mine — are sharing experiences of the first time they heard Prince and how it did funny things to them, or how his ultra-hipness made them feel more secure in their own skins, or how great a guitar player he was, and so forth. They’re sharing songs that made an impact on them when they were teenagers, suggesting a deep emotional connect with his music and — by extension — with him. Even the ones who were never exposed to anything more than ‘Purple Rain’ and sporadic appearances by the Artist Formerly Known As Prince (and then known as Prince again later) in the pop culture maelstrom are adding their two bits with an earnest sense of sadness and admiration.

It’s all well and good being cynical and attributing all of this to the very modern, very ‘internet’ phenomenon of FOMO Prevention, where you want to feel a part of the discourse. Where you Google stuff quickly to fit in and contribute to the DOTY (discussion of the day/aaj ki taaza khabar).

But that’s not it, is it? This is death we’re talking about — it’s heavy stuff. Let’s not do that thing we always do; let’s not be all grumpy and dismissive about people feeling real emotion. The passing of another person is a complex thing to process and absorb. Crying about it is OK, as is laughing, as is denial, as is anger, as is resignation and acceptance, as is indifference.

When it’s someone you know, you can always share your grief with other loved ones, with individuals who knew the departed, and you can talk about the good times and gloss over the bad ones. It’s necessary catharsis. Or you seek professional help. People around you look out for you; they try to make sure you’re doing OK out of love, concern, obligation, empathy.

But when an artist who moved you greatly decides to, you know, pop it, who do you go to? Art elicits such a personal, intimate, private, and subjective response — every person’s experience of it is different, and naturally, the relationship with artists they admire or idolise is unique — that you’re left almost abandoned. Try as we may, separating the art from the artist is easier pontificated upon than done. So that feeling of being all alone — so often the case when someone dies — gets magnified.

Prince Inline Image 2By Nicolas Genin from Paris, France

That’s sort of where social media — forever vilified as the bane of our generation and an evil, lingering presence in modern existence — comes to the rescue. It allows us to cope, which — when Lemmy or Harper Lee or Glenn Frey or David Bowie or George Martin or Phife Dawg or Chyna or Prince die (wow, it’s been a tragic few months) — is all we’re really looking for. It’s not about FOMO or fitting in or something inane like that; it’s often just about seeking company for your misery. At that point, a person knows she can share her loss with thousands of other people who’re feeling that same sense of despondency — she submits to the anonymity of it all.

Maybe I’m just searching for a silver lining here at a dark time, but isn’t that, in a faint, you-only-realise-it-later kind of way, an uplifting feeling? It results in a remembrance, as we reveal the artist’s impact on our life, or fun little anecdotes about running into them at the airport or something, hypothesise about a grand old party happening “up there” (if you believe in an “up there”), or just complain about how dictators and fascists live to be a 100 while artists are always just “found dead” in their homes well before their time. Even the people who didn’t quite relate to his music and are still vocal about his death — the fact that even they get to partake in this celebration is a great thing; it’s jumping on the bandwagon but so what? How is it wrong to want to celebrate the life of a much-loved musician?

In a way, all this adds to a sense of positivity where you eulogise the artist in a genuine, unfiltered way and commemorate her legacy, almost making her immortal somehow. Social media, this godawful modern day illness we’re all afflicted by that it is on most days, in this case provides a release and a sense of closure. And isn’t that lovely?

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com

By Akhil Sood
Cover Photo Credit: By penner - flickr.com/photospenner