Celebrities, Social Media And Grief: Why Do We Feel We Have A Right To Someone's Private Feelings?
There is definitely a problem here.
If reports are to be believed, internet trolls have chased yet another famous face off of Social Media.
Actress Elizabeth Olsen, best known for playing Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, recently de-activated her Instagram account. If reports are to be believed, the reason for this is that Olsen was bullied by supposed fans over her failure to post about the death of her Avengers co-star, Chadwick Boseman.
While Boseman's death is tragic, and his fans are allowed to be upset over his loss, the bullying of Elizabeth Olsen should not have been allowed to happen.
The situation speaks to a larger problem with celebrities on social media, and what their fans and followers do and don't have a right to.
Everyone grieves in their own way
Everyone grieves lost loved ones in their own way, in their own time. It is generally accepted that grief is a personal, private process.. or it was, until the advent of social media. If you lose a loved one Today, a social media post is expected at some point. Suddenly, everyone on your Friends List, whether they be close friends, casual acquaintances, even the nice guy you chat to in the Star Trek fan group, is posting condolences, sharing in your grief. However, as regular members of the public, we have the option of choosing when to share the news of our loss, and therefor, our grief.
This is not the case for celebrities when a co-star passes away. Only those who fans deem the very 'closest' are allowed time to process their loss. Everyone else is expected to post as soon as they get the sad news, or very soon afterwards. If they don't, something is wrong. Rumours are started, that maybe the non-poster didn't get along with the co-star. That they are heartless, that they don't care enough.
But who are we, as outside observers, to decide who is 'closest'? While Olsen and Boseman's characters, Wanda Maximoff and T'Challa, the Black Panther, share very little screen-time, they were often grouped together for interviews during the press tour for Avengers: Infinity War. Spending so much time together on the road, it is highly likely they were closer than fans realise.
Not Everyone views Social Media as a place for deeply personal feelings
Different people, and particularly different famous people, have different opinions on Social Media and what it is for. Some celebrities are very open on Social Media, welcoming the opportunity to connect with fans and followers. Some use it as a platform to bring attention to causes they support, while others view it mostly as a promotional tool.
Elizabeth Olsen is known to fans as being a very private person, and thought of social media as 'strange' until her work on the film Ingrid Goes West helped her to approach it from a different angle. Even after that, however, Olsen has a relatively small presence on Social Media, mostly using her Instagram for promotions, charities, encouraging her followers to vote, and posting the occasional gardening tips. For Olsen, Instagram is not the place to share pain and grief with the masses.
It is important to note at this point that Olsen has not been completely silent on the matter of Chadwick Boseman's death. While it is true she did not post about it on her personal page, the actress joined many of her co-stars in a video tribute to Boseman aired on ABC.
"It is only fitting that we mourn him as a King."- Elizabeth Olsen on Chadwick Boseman.
We don't know a person's personal struggles
In the past, Elizabeth Olsen has been open about the fact that she struggles with serious social anxiety. She once even left a restaurant because Talk-Show host Jimmy Kimmel was inside, and she was not sure she knew him well enough to be allowed to say hello. Because of her anxiety, Olsen rarely does interviews on her own.
Being in his company often, it is very possible that Boseman was one of Olsen's main support people during the whirlwind that was the Avengers: Infinity War press tour. His death, especially if it came as unexpectedly as it did for so many others likely shook her, and the subsequent bullying from so called fans would only have brought more pain to an already painful situation. It's easy to see why she decided Instagram wasn't worth the hassle.
At times like these, we must remember that celebrities are people too. And while we love the little glimpses into our favourite celeb's lives that social media sometimes gives us, we are not owed these glimpses.
Nobody, famous or otherwise, should be forced to share anything on Social Media that they are not comfortable with. Especially not something as personal as grieving for a lost friend.
Everyone deserves to move through grief in their own time, in their own way.
Even with the advent of social media, this hasn't changed, and it never should.