November 23, 2014

"Right now, in a place you've never visited, a person you'll never know is dying."

"If he's dying in a particularly devastating way — and, more importantly, if he is leaving behind shareable content — it is possible that millions of strangers will mourn his or her death tomorrow. Why?... Grief porn is... voyeuristic, addictive, and compulsively attractive. It grabs at a desire to indulge when indulgence is otherwise unavailable. It promises a brief, satisfying release. And, like regular pornography, the internet has transformed it. Freed from the already relaxed constraints of tabloid journalism, grief porn is no longer obligated to fake newsworthiness or importance...."

From "This Kid Just Died [VIDEO]: Grief Porn Enters the Facebook Era." Via Metafilter, where somebody said: "Even having read the article, I can't imagine how someone would see 'A Father Sings To His Dying Newborn Son After His Wife Dies Following Childbirth' and think 'I wanna click that!'"

36 comments:

Scott said...

Grief porn was big in the pre-Justin Timberlake era of MySpace.com. There was even a website devoted to it. (MyDeathSpace.com now tracks social media generally.)

buwaya puti said...

This isn't new, just the delivery medium.
This sort of thing was common in English popular culture going back centuries. Victorians could be almost necrophiliac sometimes.

madAsHell said...

Right now, in a language that I can't understand, this comment was never made.

Laslo Spatula said...

Grief porn. More things for Goth Boys and Emo Girls to masturbate to, listlessly.

Scott said...

"More things for Goth Boys and Emo Girls to masturbate to, listlessly"

More bathos.

Ann Althouse said...

Let's all take a bathos together.

Laslo Spatula said...

Don't throw the baby out with the bathos water.

Laslo Spatula said...

Bathos: the Fifth Musketeer.

Laslo Spatula said...

Warhol: in the Future everyone will be dead for fifteen minutes.

John Lynch said...

It's called "Gawker" for a reason.

m stone said...

Back in the '60s, there were several soupy ballads to lost love in car accidents and other trauma that were briefly popular. There is name for this mini genre, but I can't recall it.

Grief is nothing new in music and dates back even to Dylan ("Going, Goin, Gone") up to today (Green Day and several others.

Michael K said...

The foolishness after Princess Diana's death shows that it is alive and well in Britain.

surfed said...

I didn't even want to read your post, much less click the link ...

n.n said...

I don't watch the evening news and other programs that peddle dreams of murder, rape, or redistributive and retributive change. I also avoid programs that normalize or promote dysfunctional, unproductive, or fetish behaviors.

Achilles said...

What happens on these websites when there is an earthquake or school shooting? Multiple orgasms?

Freeman Hunt said...

I can't imagine clicking on that stuff.

gadfly said...

I can't imagine clicking on Facebook. Perhaps participating in Facebook thingamajigs and such are prerequisites to grief porn.

I don't understand what grief porn is nor will I read to find out.

RecChief said...

Right now, in a place you've never visited, a person you'll never know is dying."

No kiddin'. I think Elton John wrote a song about this for a Disney animated film.

Moving along to something important...

Wilbur said...

I've never mourned or felt grief over the death of anyone I did not personally know.

JFK, MLK, Elvis, John Lennon, Diana ... I never understood the reactions of so many people to the death of those who did not know them, and did not want to know them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some people will throw the baby out with the bathos water.

rhhardin said...

It has survival value if you grieve over deaths in your neighborhood, so the instinct is sound.

The instinct delivers help or social space to the affected.

"Sorry about your father" means not that you're sorry about his father but that you'll give him social room for a while - he doesn't have to laugh at the same joke you've told for twenty years, for instance; he can be late with assignments for a while. That does him some good.

It does him no good if you're unacquainted and a thousand miles away - it's just you entertaining yourself by satisfying your instinct.

TV and news and politicians bring every disaster in the world into your neighborhood so that they can profit from your indulging yourself, thanks to that same instinct, now gone wrong.

Krumhorn said...

The tendency to click on the link is probably related to the impulse to click on the beheading videos. Both gruesome and heartbreaking. Snuff porn they used to call it.

- Krumhorn

Craig Landon said...

I've always thought it bizarre that Facebook folk "Like" a death announcement. I don't. (Although leaving a condolence comment for someone I knew registers a "Like" -- tradeoffs).

Bob R said...

Was "Old Yeller" grief porn?

FullMoon said...

"Somewhere in the distance
There's seven new people born...

The Godfather said...

Ann, for the first time since I've been reading your blog, you have posted absolutely nothing today in which I have any interest.

I do not say this as a criticism, but rather as praise. It's remarkable that in five or more years every day you have posted something of interest to ME, with my own peculiar tastes. Tonight, I'll rest.

jr565 said...

"in the paper today
tales of war and of waste
but you turn right over to the T.V. page"
In other words, there is suffering going on, but you just care about your own selfish gratification in the form of entertainment.
Then again, what if you turn to the TV page to see when the show is on that shows the human suffering?
Don't really see why clocking on a link about a father singing to his dead son is ultimately any different than clicking on a link to hear about a black kid shot by a white cop. Or a lezbo who thinks men suck and wants to live in a commune.

Laslo Spatula said...

"The tendency to click on the link is probably related to the impulse to click on the beheading videos."

I was trying to write a comment connecting these but kept fumbling at coherency. Well said and I agree.

Laslo Spatula said...

Traffic slows at a car accident not because of the accident but because everyone wants to slow down and look at the accident. This is not always true.

Laslo Spatula said...

I once taught a girlfriend how to masturbate more effectively. Maybe this is not related.

I am Laslo.

chickelit said...

Didn't Sullivan call Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" grief porn?

Lem said...

There is a scene in Interstellar where Mathew McConaughey lays on the grief way too thick.

It didn't work for me.

Lem said...

Here is something that might get deleted.

Is Obama lying porn?

chickelit said...

Is Obama lying porn?

Don't be so transitive, Lem. There's no object to such verbiage.

Lem said...

Don't be so transitive, Lem.

Are you calling me an illegal alien?... cue the song

Lem said...

I feel like wr trespassing.