Over the last two weeks there has been a media storm broadcasting the late Robin Williams’ suicide. As the world grieves for one of Hollywood’s most beloved comedians, mass articles have been written on ways to combat depression. However, amidst millions of internet posts about Williams, there is one thing society seems to be lacking during this time, empathy.
While the public seems to sympathize with the constant suicides, many don’t truly empathize–instead some treat it as a piece of gossip. Days following William’s death, Zelda Williams, daughter to the late actor, announced she would be taking a leave of absence from social media due to the hate mail she had received from posting about her father’s death. In a similar manner, following the alleged suicide of Heath Ledger in 2008, the media, once again, was seen overstepping their boundaries and stalked Ledger’s family. It seems in both cases, society has felt the need to watch and gossip about how others grieve.
Furthermore society is now shaming those who do not seem to be grieving “properly,” and driving them off social media and into hiding. It seems that even adults are now prone to constant and humiliating bullying that was once only seen in high school. This bullying that can now blatantly be seen not only among some of the most famous people but during a time of sensitivity, surely shows the ways our society needs to change.
In the wake of Zelda’s leave from social media, Twitter has vowed to start reviewing posts more carefully. But there needs to more than that to fix the problem. Perhaps, we need to stop telling each other to be kind, and start teaching others how to become kinder and ultimately empathetic. If there is one thing our society needs to work on is being more understanding and accept each other for who we are.
Perhaps just attempting to be more empathetic in just one social situation every day could help us see the warning signs in suicidal people. It could certainly help the bullying epidemic, and could help society from being so intrusive into people’s lives, whether they are famous or not. If there is one more thing to learn about Williams, Ledger, or any suicide in general it is to simply try to understand and try to empathize.