Social media trolls should just accept that people who are famous are going to be mourned by strangers, writes KGOSI GASEBALWE SERETSE
The world was recently plunged into mourning following the death of the larger-than-life basketball legend, Kobe Bryant. Despite the tragic nature of his passing and his celebrated status, some local social media trolls have been harassing those Batswana who have mourned the death of this superstar by condemning their show of grief. These trolls believe that if you have never closely interacted with someone, you have no right to mourn them. Silly questions like, “Is he your cousin or have you ever seen him in the flesh?,” have been asked.
What people should know is that influential people like Kobe Bryant are likely to be mourned by millions of people who have only seen him in action on television. Kobe was most certainly not the first celebrity to die and he won’t be the last, so people should just get used to the idea that celebrities are going to be mourned by total strangers even in far-flung places. Famous singers, actors, athletes and politicians are normally mourned by people who have never met them when they pass on, so Kobe is not an exception.
The name Kobe is synonymous with the game of basketball alongside the likes of other African-American players such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaq O’Neal and Magic Johnson. But there are local trolls who are saying Kobe shouldn’t be mourned because he is not related to those who express regret at his passing. It is only natural that when somebody who is an internationally-acclaimed superstar dies, people from all over the world would mourn him, including his Batswana fans. If one was a follower of Kobe’s career, one would feel as though one knew him personally even it is only a relationship in the media.
Kobe touched millions as one of the top players NBA has ever produced and many young people aspired to be like him. Many revered him on the court and whenever the best of the best in the game were mentioned, he made the list. Basketball merchandise bearing his number sold like hotcakes, which simply meant that he was well-loved. There are a few Batswana basketball players who can confidently say that Kobe was an influence in their lives.
The fact that Kobe died a tragic death, together with his young daughter, Gianna, made many even sadder. So the trolls who are against the outpouring of sorrow should just hold their horses because the man was simply a celebrated person loved by many. Other superstars who have been mourned all over the world include musicians such as Michael Jackson, Tupac, Whitney Houston and Biggie Smalls and it is obvious that many who mourned them didn’t know them from Adam.
When a superstar dies, his legion of fans gives themselves time and permission to mourn him and they don’t need a troll to tell them how they should express themselves. A few years ago when Michael Jackson died a tragic death, his fans were shocked and unashamedly showed their grief to the world and some were said to be depressed to the point of being suicidal. It is a fact that if you follow somebody, even if you have never met them you might feel a special connection to them. Interestingly, you might even mourn a celebrity more than a person you know personally because of the impact that the celebrity has had on your life.
Some people even travel distances to lay wreaths at spots where celebrities have died and might even attempt to attend their funeral. Some line the streets to see a celebrity’s hearse pass by even going to the extent of wailing openly. If you grow up listening to a particular artist, you slowly start feeling as though you know him personally. His music gives you joy and when he dies you are going to mourn remembering the comfort that he brought you. If you followed the career of a sportsperson or a top politician, when he dies you might feel as though you have lost someone close to you.
It is also clear that if a celebrity dies a tragic or sudden death, the outpouring of grief is great. As mentioned before, the sudden deaths of people like Michael Jackson, Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Whitney Houston have shocked myriads of fans all over the world. In neighbouring South Africa, when the songbird Brenda Fassie died, the whole of Africa kept vigil as the continent was plunged into mourning. Liberation struggle icon Nelson Mandela was mourned by people from all over the world and his memorial services were attended by many people, including those who had never met him.
Locally, some of the celebrated figures that have attracted many mourners include the likes of Gomolemo Motswaledi and Sir Seretse Khama. When Seretse died in 1980, many Batswana mourned perhaps because he was the founding father of the nation and he was a popular president. A few years ago when Motswaledi died under mysterious circumstances, there was both rage and deep mourning by the nation.
So that being said, social media trolls should just accept that people who are famous are going to be mourned by strangers. That is one thing that we have to learn to live with. Next time you see a social media friend mourning somebody that he doesn’t know, know that there is nothing you can do about it and mocking that person won’t change anything much.