IT'S DIFFICULT to imagine anything more personal than processing a death. We exist in a time, however, when personal and private are drifting further and further away from being synonymous. Social media is already an emotional obstacle course—and even more so when you stumble upon a narrow acquaintance's earnest obituary about their dearly departed, whose existence and discontinuation of existence you became aware of at exactly the same time. These reminders of mortality are a splash of cold water to the face, momentarily tearing you away from the numb electric hum of scrolling through the timeline of whichever platform you fuck with most thoroughly.
That's kind of all they are though, right? So somebody's uncle died, and even if you're somebody's uncle, their death doesn't really fuck up your program too much. You didn't know them, so you don't have to process.
You didn't know Leonard Nimoy, though. You didn't know Harris Wittels. Most of you didn't know Jerome Kersey (look, insert a dead public figure into this list to make it relatable to you).
So what does it mean when we feel these deaths in such a profound way? Is it even okay to feel these losses in such a profound way? I never knew Harris Wittels, but we shared so many friends and I honestly felt weird mourning his death as a great comedian and producer of excellent content while people around me were mourning his death as a dear friend and an individual of massive seismic emotional resonance.
I tweeted "RIP Harris Wittels," and I was immediately ashamed of that tweet. Even now, admitting it feels simultaneously ridiculous and correct. Sometimes it feels like the internet turns into a grief gold rush, and I can't help but wonder if participating in that gold rush is obstructive to the people who actually knew the deceased.
William Shatner has been receiving no end of grief for the way he's processing the death of Leonard Nimoy. The internet has pilloried the man for not attending Nimoy's funeral. Maybe they're correct to do so—I don't fucking know. But neither do you, and neither do 99.9 percent of the people who are soapboxing on this particular corner. Death is massively personal, and I think we owe it to the well being of our society to let it be as private as it needs to be. Private even when it's William Shatner mourning the death of Leonard Nimoy. Private even when he publicly goes on the defensive. Celebrities have friends, and friendship can be complicated, and having been on television doesn't make death suck any less, I'm guessing.
When Jerome Kersey died, the city of Portland and everyone on Twitter who loves basketball and dozens and dozens of Facebook moms expressed their remorse that a good man had died. I didn't know Jerome super well, but I considered him a friend, and seeing the outpouring of grief and the recounting of memories both public and personal made me feel happy and grateful to have known him even briefly. Knowing that Jerome Kersey touched the lives of people who didn't know him didn't cheapen the handful of memories that I gained from actually spending time with the man.
I guess what I mean to say is RIP Harris Wittels. The world is less wonderful without you.