Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Celebrity and death

On Oct. 5, 2011, the Cardinals beat the Phillies 5-3, forcing a fifth playoff game and ultimately winning the series in a nail-biter of a finale. Awesome, right? Overall, I’d say Wednesday was a good day. Except for the big news that Steve Jobs died.

I have to say, though, I didn’t really care. The guy had a particularly insidious form of cancer. I had fleeting thoughts of sympathy for his family, but really, the Cards game was way more important to me. This isn’t about me being a cold, heartless rhymes-with-witch. I had no personal connection to the man, and, even though I acknowledge his excellence as a human being, I have no reason to actually mourn his passing. When celebrities die, I usually don’t feel bad, because I have very little connection, emotionally or physically, to them.

It’s pretty much expected that when someone famous dies, there will be some sort of Facebook recognition. Facebook has even become a reliable way to disseminate that kind of news—It’s how I found out about Michael Jackson’s death, for example. Everyone seems to feel a need to make some sort of comment. Usually, it’s not just reportage, though; there’s an implication of emotional loss.

Yes, Steve Jobs was an innovative man. It makes sense that people would notice his passing. But he was only one man. He was innovative, intelligent and worthy of respect. But so are many of the people who die every single day. Despite what shareholders in Apple think, the company will go on without him. I’m also not a big fan of the “great men” theory of history. There’s only so much one person can achieve alone. It would be completely impossible for us to commemorate every single person who contributed to the development of Apple products; Steve Jobs has become more than just himself.

He’s become a symbol for all of the innovation and creation associated with Apple.

The proliferation of Steve Jobs-related Facebook statuses reminded me of what happened on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. Seemingly everyone, from my classmates to my younger brother, who was six in 2001, had a 9/11-related Facebook status. I did not, for various reasons. The most important was that while I love to share random, pseudo-intimate details about my life, I don’t like to divulge deeply personal emotions on the Internet. I understood why people did, though—it was a way of paying tribute to the genuinely heroic people who died that day and the disturbing experience that we all went through as Americans.

Unlike Sept. 11, the death of Steve Jobs was not a traumatic event (though it likely was for his family and friends). I don’t think everyone who wrote a perfunctory “R.I.P. Steve Jobs” status was moved to tears by his death. But there is an implication of reflection. Personally, there’s only so much I get excited or upset about. The deaths of remote, if famous, personages don’t rank high on my list.

Now if someone like the Dalai Lama died, someone whose entire life is more or less devoted to improving the world and working for peace, then I would be moved. I’m neither Tibetan nor Buddhist, but I still have a lingering sense of idealism that believes in the goal of peace. The Dalai Lama, like other Nobel Peace Prize winners, is a powerful symbol and a man who has accomplished great things for humanity.

Even then, I don’t think his passing would “merit” anything so banal as a Facebook post. I’d rather actually engage in a conversation. Steve Jobs, however, was not the Dalai Lama. He was a techie. I’m not hating on people who chose to remember Steve Jobs, on Facebook or otherwise. I just don’t get it.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878