“Gone too soon” : did Twitter grieve for Michael Jackson?
Lee, Chei Sian
Goh, Dion Hoe-Lian
Date of Issue2013
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
Purpose – Grieving resulting from death is a painful process and individuals invariably seek support to help them through this difficult period. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role microblogs play in providing social support following the death of a public figure, Michael Jackson, “the King of Pop”. Design/methodology/approach – In total, 50,000 tweets from the first 12 days after Jackson's death were harvested from Twitter. A content analysis using a coding instrument characterizing a set of social support categories was conducted. Categories not related to social support were also inductively constructed and applied to the tweets. Findings – Twitter was primarily used for providing informational support, followed by emotional support. Surprisingly, categories not normally associated with grieving, such as spreading of rumours, expressions of hatred, and spam, also occupied a large proportion of tweets. Practical implications – Results suggest that microblogging has the potential to facilitate the grieving process and in some aspects of social support. However, information quality could be an issue that calls for better information management tools. Originality/value – There has been little work done in examining microblogs as platforms for grieving in general, and more specifically, for providing social support during bereavement. The present research is timely, as we seek to understand the role microblogs play in the grieving process.
Online Information Review