Did you hear? Amy Winehouse died! How many times do you think this question was asked followed by an answer that is prompted, not by actual intrigue, but because it seems like social information that needs to be shared regardless of the other person’s interest? Personally, I fell prey to this 40+ times.
Why does this happen?
In the world of social networking, a strange phenomenon has occurred; (Actually, not so strange, but worth noting) we have all become each others important news filter.
Traditionally, people have relied on the 6 o’clock news from the major 3 networks for the latest, “Most Important” information. We have been conditioned to think that what ever the talking head says must be important regardless of content.
That’s not to say the death of Amy Winehouse was unimportant (or Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, etc…), but, these deaths seem to get an exponential push.
How does it work?
Quite simply, it seems more important because:
- It’s a young, female celebrity
- It could happen to anyone
People fear what they do not know. And, everyone fears the unexpectedness of death. The interesting thing here is that there seem to be phases for the way this news spreads.
- It’s shocking. It starts with a tweet from a major entertainment news source.
- Depending on content, will be retweeted or shared by the first connected audience.
- The less socially connected people get wind of the news. And it becomes a social micro-fad to know about.
- (this is when it becomes interesting) The original message transforms into something people share out of an anxiety about not being accepted as a trustworthy news filter. It becomes a social acceptance game. The fear becomes that if you don’t wear it on your wrist (as it were) you are not a part of society.
- It appears Amy Winehouse dying has a social significance comparative to a terrorist attack (Or perhaps even beyond). Why?
The glitch in the ripple happens after a normal news story would have dwindled away then suddenly is reposted by an unlikely source. Like a droplet of water in a pool, the first wave carries the most weight, unless an unnatural force reinvigorates the source. Presumably because of the unique circumstantial social pressures to be a legitimate source of “Important” information, pushed those who normally would not say anything, to say something. Simply to be included into the conversation.
Does it really matter?
Not really. In fact, I took the time to write about this partly because it was annoying to me. But, as I thought about it, the social significance of this even just stopped making sense after the 10th or 11th reminder, and I wondered why.