The news popped into my email box while I was on the phone with a friend. "Oh," I cried out. "Woody Harrelson is dead." We spent a moment reflecting on the career of Woody Harrelson and talked about how sad it must be for his family. After the phone call, I realized that it was strange that the same news hadn't popped up as a CNN or New York Times alert, so I Googled "Woody Harrelson" and found that nothing had been written about his death apart from social media. Which is when I Googled "Woody Harrelson dead" and discovered the long-trending social media story declaring Woody Harrelson dead that won't die itself.
Which begs the question: why does social media want to kill off Woody Harrelson?
He's certainly not the only celebrity whose demise has been listed and then retracted on Twitter or Facebook time and time again. Bill Cosby pops up from time to time. I've seen Eddie Murphy trend. Vanilla Ice is still here even though he was reported gone. Justin Bieber dies constantly. Lindsay Lohan. Paris Hilton. Christian Slater.
It's been mused on before that the creation of the 24-hour news cycle brings with it the picking over of every tiny details of a quote or moment in order to fill the time. Where we used to get the big news all in one chunk at the beginning or end of the day, we now have commentator after commentator not only giving you the news but how you should process the news, how this news compares with that news, and moreover, giving us news that isn't really news.
Has social media 24-hour conversation done the same thing?
While social media is great for disseminating news quickly and blogs are a wonderful tool for reflecting on events, are we also becoming a bit vulture-like, circling the skies looking for something to feast on verbally? If the conversation lulls for a bit, do we start itching, thinking of the next thing to discuss to keep that human connection going? And are we so hungry for a story that we create one if there isn't something around to entertain us for the moment?
What are your thoughts about celebrity death hoaxes on social media?
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