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Rituals: Death and publicity


gemma-thomsJust a quick note on the previous post. Gemma Thoms died from an ectasy overdose at Big Day Out in Perth on the weekend. Her friends and extended social network have created a Facebook RIP page for her. The first I heard of this was on the Channel Ten evening TV news program.

BDO 09 Tragedy – R.I.P Gemma Thoms

This group has nearly 500 members already and a couple of hundred wall posts. The sudden death of a 17 year old will spur large numbers of people to commiserate together.  Note that they are gathering news articles and posting them up, as well as discussing the role of the Media:

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT NOTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I AM A FAMILY FRIEND OF GEMMA’S AND HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT WITH HER FAMILY UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANYONE ALLOWED TO GO ON ANY NEWS CHANNELS, RADIO OR NEWSPAPERS TO TALK ABOUT GEMMA OR FAMILY WITH REGARDING TO WHAT HAS HAPPENED WITHOUT TALKING TO HER MOTHER FIRST THIS IS A SERIOUS MATTER PLEASE CONSIDER THEIR WISHES AT THIS VERY SAD TIME.

Uhoh. Too late? Every friend, acquaintance and sympathiser is already blogging, Facebooking and MySpacing their condolences and memorials. And the press are reading it. Remember the doofer who disappeared at a concert? The journalist printed the comments and discussions from a very small, out-of-the-public-eye (or so they though) forum.  I think we will see ethic statements coming out of traditional media sooner or later whereby they differentiate between unsuspecting comments on a blog vs actual answers to interview questions by a journo.

MySpace removes the pages of young people who have died, particularly suicides and “interest to the press”, if the immediate family request it. A big mistake I think – these kids belong to their friends as much as to their families. Anyway, the friends will create 100’s of memorial pages instead of just using one. Which one is easier for MySpace/the family to monitor?

It’s always difficult to discuss death in a community – particularly as value systems are very sensitive around this topic. What is tasteful and what is not? How do we know if someone is just being a drama queen, seeking attention or genuinely bereft?

But consider this. We are not far away from the day when there will be more content created by those that have passed on than those currently living. And the next generation, those late Gen Y’s and early Noughties, when googling a subject or keyword will suddenly be faced with a webpage belonging to their mother or grandmother. No more to be packed up in boxes and sadly placed in the garage or donated to the Salvation Army but flick through Facebook or Myspace or Twitter and be confronted by  the thoughts and creative content of those who are no longer with us, in this world.

The press need to be very very careful when pulling content from forums, Facebook, blogs and MySpace of young people who have passed on in tragic circumstances. As indeed do all of us.

Note: Gemma Thoms actual Facebook page is locked down, gated, not open to the press. I don’t know if it always was, or if the family/Facebook changed the access privileges after this tragic event.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

3 thoughts on “Rituals: Death and publicity

  1. Its always interesting to me what happens to content after a person dies, especially in instances where that person may be the only person with access to the login details to control content (especially on third party websites, such as YouTube and Twitter.)

    1. Anthropologists of the future are going to have a field day. This is like Samuel Pepys diary to the nth degree.

  2. i have none gemma since we were little she was like a big sister too me i love you lots miss you HEAPS AND HEAPS!! RIP GEM GEM XXXXXXXXXOOOOOOOO

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