Some might think expressing sympathy is a nice thing to do. Not so the Daily Mail's ever-sensitive Jan Moir, who writes that, when done on Twitter, it's "an unsavoury social shift, a bleak emotional signpost to what lies ahead." Oh.
The context is British actress Amanda Holden, who recently lost a baby, and for whom there's been an outpouring of Tweeted sympathy. Writes Moir — who's respecting Holden's privacy by writing this article —
isn't there also something unsettling, distasteful and offensive about this new eruption of celebrity-to-celebrity condolences, played out in the Twittersphere hall of mirrors to an audience of millions? At best, it appears narcissistic. At worst, it is, surely, just plain, old-fashioned showing off. Not to mention self-seeking puffery of the very worst sort. For surely those celebrities who actually know and are friends with Miss Holden - and that does seem to be most of them listed here - should get in touch privately to express their sympathy in a more discreet and meaningful way? Such as a phone call, a bunch of flowers or - dare I even suggest it - a private, handwritten note of condolence?
On the one hand, I think all Twitter "communication" is kind of weird and performative and rarely takes the place of actual person-to-person contact. But — really? We're offended by outpourings of sympathy? Sure, people's real friends probably contact them IRL, too. But these public statements do serve to inform and instruct followers and fans, and there are much worse things — it's not like the British public would be ignoring the issue otherwise; this just takes control of its transmission, in a benign way.
More to the point, whatever you think about bold-faces, there's no "right" way to grieve. And some of that's plain generational. When my grandfather died a few months ago, I didn't feel compelled to take to the Internet. But when a friend, a contemporary, died last week, her Facebook page quickly and organically became a place for condolences, for outpouring, for mutual support. Far from some bleak emotional signpost, it was "social networking" in its truest and best sense, and it brought real comfort. Question celeb motives if you want, but the practice in itself — if it brings comfort — isn't for us to judge. Besides, as Moir should learn, you don't need to read it.