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25 April 2016, 16:47
It's not about whether or not you knew them, it's how they made you feel.
Cat videos? All good. Found a funny gif? Knock yourself out. Want to compose a tribute to a recently deceased actor/musician/public figure? Don't be so "over the top" - you didn't even know them for gods sake!
This week, the world mourned yet another pop culture icon gone before their time as Prince unexpectedly left us at the age of 57. Social media was of course instantly flooded with messages of sympathy and, as is now standard practice, a few notes calling for restraint.
WHO WAS "PRINCE"? WHO CARES?— Carlo (@Medvedev123456) April 22, 2016
Why is there so much hype around prince? Who cares. Drug overdose, so typcal. Let's praise real heros.— Bonic (@Bonic12345) April 22, 2016
Don't know why so many people feel the need to declare they were never a fan of Prince. Who cares? Why can't you just let people mourn?— Sanney Leung (@SanneyLeung) April 21, 2016
When a star passes away, it can seem odd to an unaffected outsider witnessing the outpouring of grief, fans crying and emoting as if they have lost a member of their own family.
I must confess that in the past I too have rolled my eyes at overly showy shouts of despair aimed at famous figures I had no vested interest in - shouldn't these tears be saved for when someone they actually know dies?
And yet, following Prince's departure from this world into whatever space funk sex realm he now finds himself in, I have lost a hero that I have listened to and loved since childhood. While I may never have known the man personally, his music has always been with me and now those childhood memories of singing along to Purple Rain seem, if not tainted, then at least with the colour slightly dulled.
So I did something I rarely do - I wrote a sincere message of tribute on the internet.
Yep. This is the one I'll be sobbing at. All time favourite #prince— James Wilson-Taylor (@mrjaytee) April 21, 2016
This one will hit harder once everyone realises all of today's pop owes a debt to this man. Gutted #Prince— James Wilson-Taylor (@mrjaytee) April 21, 2016
Subsequently, I have realised exactly why this public display of grief occurs - we are creating a community of people who feel exactly the same way as us.
The countless tweets, facebook posts, blogs and videos plastered across the internet have allowed millions of us to join together in our sadness and realise that we are not alone in feeling oddly lost. You may have felt similarly looking at the Harry Potter quotes and memes spread across the web when Alan Rickman passed on or in the fan art explosion when David Bowie died in January.
But more importantly, these online hubs give further credence to the idea that grieving over a celebrity is valid grief. Who are we to shame anyone over how they feel, regardless of whether they met the person in question?
Music in particular comes readily attached to life moments - that song you heard on vacation, the karaoke song your Dad used to do, the song you used to blast in your car in the final summer of school - so it's only natural that the loss of the creator of those songs is felt deeper than you perhaps expected. If social media is a place where we can all gather together to celebrate the life of a legend then let's start posting and show some respect.
So, to all the more cynical tweeters and instagrammers out there, next time the world mourns a famous figure, take the time to read the comments thoroughly. You may just find you miss them too.