Unless you've been frozen in carbonite , you've probably heard the sad news that Steve Jobs passed away two days ago. And yes, it's very sad news. He was a genius, relatively young, and he died way too soon. My deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones, who no doubt miss him very much. (And I really do mean that.)
But, do you see what I did right there? I reacted normally to the death of a stranger whose work I respected; I reacted normally to the death of a fellow human being. But what's getting me is all the abnormal reactions other people are having. I'll elaborate.
I first heard about the news on Twitter. Like the rest of my generation, I find it much quicker to read a 140 character or less tweet about said event than to watch CNN anchors drone about it six hours before they actually get to the point. And, since I learned about this sad news on Twitter, I had the unique opportunity to instantly see the reactions of everyone who was commenting on Jobs' death. The first couple of condolences were normal, sober, and well-expressed. (i.e "I'm very sad to hear about the passing of Steve Jobs.") But as I continued reading, it became apparent that people who never even knew Steve Jobs were freaking the fuck out. "OMG. I can't believe he's dead!" -- which is, granted, rather normal.
And I get that. Everyone reacts differently to death. And the death of someone you look up to -- even if it's someone you've never met -- is very hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. You know, I can understand it. And with that said, I can move along to my point.
There is a line between being upset (including very upset) about the passing of someone iconic in their field and between turning that being upset into a yuppy trend, a bandwagon for others to hop on just so they can feel included in this tragedy. Further more, I saw a lot of celebrities who probably didn't care one wit about Steve Jobs tweeting vehemently about his death. And I mean, I can't say that with a categorical certainty -- that they didn't care -- but I can say that a lot of them seemed to be using it as a platform to get attention. That is Thing Number 1 I saw very wrong that day.
And then there is Thing Number 2, which I found even more disturbing. And it may seem like a small thing to a lot of people, but just humor me, follow along with my thought train for a moment, and THEN see what you think...
When I was reading through my Twitter feed, I saw a tweet done by Alyssa Milano:
This tweet came after a usual sort of sympathy tweet, where she spoke her sentiments from her heart. This tweet however, is merely a well-meaning gesture that's actually rather shallow. And what thought did this tweet provoke in me? I thought to myself: Why is she using her celebrity to get her followers to do a tribute to someone who's already died when she could instead be using it to raise awareness for the disease that killed him?
I have lupus. Right now, I'm doing rather well and I'm grateful for that. But I've nearly died from it before. And if I ever did die from it and I was looking down from above, I would want a celebrity to use their power and influence to help save others from my fate via raising awareness, charity work, etc. My spiritual, spectral self would probably appreciate sincere comments, but empty gestures? Just no.
And I want to make it clear I don't think Alyssa Milano was doing this as a purposeful thing to gain attention for herself. I mean, she could've been -- I'm not her and don't know what she's thinking -- but whatever the motive, I wish she knew that a better, more meaningful tribute to Steve Jobs would've been something to raise awareness. After all, one of the greatest things Jobs is known for was his innovative spirit. He saw the world going forward. He saw new ways to look at the world, to make daily life easier, to make entertainment more entertaining. And since he had that way about him, I think a greater tribute than an empty gesture would be to carry on his message, you know? For instance, helping solve what caused him to die -- even in a tiny way -- is an innovation. And aside of the tribute aspect, I think, even in death, he'd want the rest of us to use every opportunity to just keep moving forward.