Late yesterday afternoon, someone posted on Tumblr that Nora Ephron may have died based on a random tweet from a newspaper columnist about her funeral. This same Tumblr account later posted that Nora Ephron’s agent or editor or representative of some kind denied this and claimed that Nora Ephron was still alive. Soon after this, actual news sources reported that she was very very sick and was not expected to last the night. And by sometime yesterday evening, it was officially reported that Nora Ephron had died from her bout with leukemia. You probably already know this: either because you saw her obituary on the front page of the New York Times website, or because every single person on your Twitter feed was writing about it last night. Probably the latter. Dane Cook tweeted about it (right before tweeting about how bad he wanted to take a girl from behind over a “dimensional portal”?) Jonah Hill tweeted about it. See also: Mario Batali. Everyone was joining in. Sometimes they would talk about their first experience with the work of Nora Ephron. Sometimes they would mention her status as an important role model and feminist. And of course there is the old Twitter standby of just posting “R.I.P. [Insert Name].” Classic. Whatever people posted, it is clear once again that Twitter is just the way we die now. But it doesn’t really have to be, does it? I sure hope not, because it’s the worst.

The Internet in general is just a terrible place for eulogizing. You know how newspaper obituary columns work for people of note, right? When a “famous” or “important” person crosses a certain age or health threshold, their obituary is researched, written, and carefully edited before being put away on file to be used in the case of that person’s death. If/when someone dies, any new stories or details that have accrued in the remaining days, weeks, months, years of their life can be woven into a carefully and thoughtfully constructed piece that does, despite Joan Rivers’s best protestations, come at least close to honoring their lives and providing deserved recognition for their achievements. Because there is time. As there should be. Honoring a life takes time. Here is an excerpt from The Daily What’s eulogy of Nora Ephron, published last night:

After writing the script for When Harry Met Sally, and writing/directing You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, it was her turn to call the shots.

For the last six years Ephron struggled with myelodysplasia, a blood disorder, of which recently made her extremely ill. She passed away Tuesday in a New York hospital.

What on Earth? A cursory glance at an IMDB page followed by a hollow cliche of empowerment that leads to nothing but the hospital and death? Garbage. Absolute garbage! How about just linking to an actual obituary, or even better: KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT. In what way is this at all valuable to the world, all of this CHATTER? End it. And when I point a blog finger at The Daily What you know there are four blog fingers pointing right back at blogs. Everyone is guilty of this. We are all talking too much all the time all day long every single day we can barely even take a sip of water because how would we swallow it our mouths are too busy expectorating nonsense and even if they weren’t our fingers are too busy typing on our phones. “Oh Gabe, you sound like an old man. And whose business is it of yours how people choose to react to and deal with the news of death?” Well, I am an old man. And it’s my business as soon as everyone makes it my business. That’s the whole point of Twitter and the Internet in the first place isn’t it? To aggressively ensure that your business becomes everybody else’s business. And for the most part this psychic and verbal clutter is manageable. Horrible and unnecessary and a detriment to the world but manageable. But when it comes to the death of a complete stranger it seems straight up UNTOWARD.

Example: one time, Natasha Richardson died. Now, as opposed to Nora Ephron, Natasha Richardson did not pave the way for female humorists or write famous romantic comedies that we still reference over tongue sandwiches at Katz’s Delicatessan to this very day. She did not give birth to the Nancy Meyers-ification of modern middle aged love or write champagne-in-cheek paeans to the Upper West Side. She was not a role model, and she might not have even been a feminist. We’ll never know. She was an actress and she had a famous husband and her death was a genuine tragedy because it came from an accident. (I am not in any way trying to diminish the impact of Nora Ephron’s death on her friends and family or to say that it was somehow not upsetting or even “cruel” for them, but ultimately people do get sick and die, Nora Ephron herself even has some choice quotes about this that have been making the rounds, and somehow a person following in this natural cycle of life, however difficult and possibly even prematurely, it is a little different than an unexpectedly fatal fluke skiing accident on a holiday vacation. In my stupid opinion. Although not even, because fatal fluke skiing accidents are part of it too. So never mind.) That’s not even the point that I want to make. Death is death and death is always hard for someone. The point that I want to make is that not a single person or website was ever talking about the things that Natasha Richardson was doing in life and then she died and every person and website was talking about her. Well, why? I still don’t understand. Why does EVERYONE have to weigh in? I wrote about this question and everyone got very mad at me. Perhaps fairly! Almost certainly fairly. The overall reaction everyone had to my thoughts on the subject were that I should have just kept my mouth shut. That’s true. But you know who else should have just kept their mouths shut? EVERYONE.

You guys, what if when someone died, especially someone whose work we actually cared about, what if we joined together in what used to be called back in the Old World, a MOMENT OF SILENCE. That used to be the universal symbol of showing respect for the dark and foreboding mystery of death, and for honoring our place and the deceased’s place and the yet to be born’s place in that circle. A moment of silence can be solemn, but you can also fill it with whatever’s in your head. The whole point of a moment of silence is that you are allowed within your own private moment to think and experience and remember whatever you want. That’s your business. But out of respect for the people who actually did know and care and love the person, you keep it to yourself.

There’s no open mic ceremony at a funeral. For a reason.

You should read the New York Times‘s obituary of Nora Ephron. Or even better, you should just go read her books and essays and watch her movies. Some of them are really good and some of them kind of stink. Because she was a human being. But one thing you don’t need to do is weigh in on it. I promise you have nothing to say.

Boy oh boy. I swear these days it seems like the only thing that scares people more than death is two fucking seconds of quiet. #LeastFAV

Comments (71)
  1. You’ve Got Hate Mail, Gabe.

  2. I DON’T disagree with YOU GABE OL’ buddy, but THERE SURE IS something odd about USING THE death of someone as A PLATFORM to write about HOW THE INTERNET is the worst thing FOR EULOGIZING on your own BLOG.

  3. I feel very awkward about leaving a comment after that. I will do so anyway. I am part of the problem.

    • I am too, but I don’t feel bad about it. If we can use twitter to share things that make us laugh, what is the problem with sharing things that make us feel genuinely sad?

  4. R.I.P, Twitter eulogies.

  5. RIP Internet eulogies. You’re in heaven now, summarizing people’s lives in 140 characters.

  6. Needs more trampoline accidents.

  7. It seems like a lot of Twitter eulogizing is just an attempt to “first” everyone else in revealing the bad news.

  8. I think following Dane Cook is the greatest crime of all here.

  9. How do I know to grieve unless Chet Haze says I should?

    • I bookmarked his twitter feed in my web browser so I can view it without having to create an official twitter account. Impressed? I got mad internet skillz, yo. You kray!

  10. I totally understand Gabe’s frustration. At the same time I think when a celebrity dies, sharing an RIP #name is cathartic. We deal with death in different ways and I think about when I die, I would like a million tweets or to be a trending topic FOR ONCE at least.

    • Hey @aplusk! I died, can I get a RT?

    • I guess I always saw it as the internet version of doffing my hat in honor of the deceased. I didn’t know I was actually screaming into the ether and flinging poop at the casket. Gulp.

      • Same here, lbt, same here. Feeling a little weird right now.

        • I think it’s a primarily the difference between actually mourning talent you enjoyed and jumping on a bandwagon so you become part of a trending topic. I just read Gabe’s Natasha Richardson piece and agree 100 percent. If you actually care, eulogize away… But most people just like to add to the noise (not talking about any of you, just run of the mill Internet idiots). The amount of ridicule Whitney Houston got the days, week, years before her death put next to her post-mortem canonization was horrifying. And seeing thousands upon thousands of inane grief tweets just made it all worse. I’m sure at some point today Buzzfeed will have a top 20 dumbest reactions listicle and pull a bunch of high school kids asking if Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan died. Though Dane Cook should probably be in there too bc his tweet didn’t even make sense. Wouldn’t Kleenex stock go up? Plus I sincerely doubt that guy sits down to Ephron-penned films and essays so his eulogizing (especially in a public forum where his celebrity is 100 percent based on making fun of things like schmaltzy chick flicks) is especially annoying.

          • 100% agree. The wailing and gnashing of teeth over celebrities who were the butt of jokes the day before really grosses me out. I made a similar comment down below without even seeing yours! Great minds, etc.

          • I don’t think Ephron falls under that category, but it’s the best example I can think of off the top of my head (and it’s early here). I just read her commencement speech to ’96 Wellsley grads and it’s great. People telling Dane Cook he really missed out on not being in a Nora Ephron movie? Not so great. People responding to Jonah Hill about how great 21 Jump Street was… ugh.

    • “[...] When I die, I would like a million tweets or to be a trending topic FOR ONCE at least.”

      Our dreams are so small. And they should probably be smaller.

      (no shade.)

    • Can i make a confession? If I ever get famous, just before I die I would like to set up something that requires people who are not my friends or family to pay my estate $50 whenever they say something mawkish or embarassing about me. That would be the best.

  11. Anything more than “so it goes” is too much.

  12. I completely agree. If you have enough respect/passion/love for someone’s death to move you to express this, 140 characters or a pithy blurb is probably not the correct or proper medium.

    This was what I was trying to convey with my animated gif of meg Ryan crying that I posted on Tumblr last night and then screencapped and shared to Instagram. RIP Norah L-ron.

  13. I want Siri to give my eulogy.

  14. “Ok, sure. Whatever you say Gabe.”
    -the rest of the internet

  15. Gabe, if you have to follow Jonah Hill for this job, they need to quadruple whatever it is that you are making. The incessant hollow echo chamber of noise I get for/from my job makes me nuts, but at least my worst offenders are idiot social media managers and shitty, lazy journalists — both of whom are easy to ignore after a run or a medicinal gimlet. If I had to be exposed to every pointless celebrity’s opinions on anything, I would actually wish for 2012. Oh, wait…

    Jeez dude. I am sorry. Take Dr. Birdie for a walk. I think that is what she would advise.

  16. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  17. in heaven, everybody has long, elegant necks

  18. I completely agree, though I find it gratifying to learn new things about artists through others’ tribute postings.

    Mine, for Ephron:

    1. Great New Yorker profile:

    2. And, as always, the You’ve Got Mail tribute on Undeclared:

    • I went with the Undeclared reference, because its one of my favorite moments of the show, as well as one of the best scenes Seth Rogen has ever done. Also, doesn’t it kind of sum up how all of us relate to Nora Ephron movies? Hooking us in despite our most cranky cynicism?

      I do feel dirty about putting an @JuddApatow on there though…. :-\ I just want him to know how much I care!

  19. Linda Holmes (of NPR’s Monkey See blog) wrote a great piece about her last night. That I retweeted.

  20. I actually unfollowed some Monsters last night (important BREAKING Twitter news, I know). Not for disliking them, but for their delusions of GABEdeur, (thinking they are Gabe, whose “thing” is “crotchety funny man”), and going all “OMG who give a care that an old died what did she even do lol hashtag sext” etc and I’m like…dude.

    The world sucks enough as it is. Get off your iDroid and watch some god damned TV or something if you care so little. Christ.

    Same goes for tepid Twitter eulogies so I guess I am saying I agree.

  21. I am guilty of this and I will try to do better.

    You would think I would have learned my lesson after my epic digi-morning of Michael Jackson 3 years ago. And I hadn’t even listened to his music in 15 years! It came out of nowhere… I’m still embarrassed! I guess ‘Jam’ impacted me more than I ever realized. Whoops, am I doing it again? Had to fight myself not to do it again Monday! Oh internet… what are you doing to our brains?

  22. But I was most disturbed by people using this as an end button on the Adam Carolla thing from last week.

  23. I completely understand where Gabe is coming from, I really do, but I guess I just feel like people expressing love and respect for an artist they genuinely admired is better than the usual stupid drivel that comes out of everyone’s Twittermouths. I guess what I’m saying is, if we must tweet, or tumbl, or pin, or post (which apparently…we must, incessantly) then I’d rather read about someone’s experience with Nora Ephron’s work than about what someone ate for lunch.

  24. I don’t check Twitter very often, and no one on my Facebook mentioned Nora Ephron. So it was a little bizarre that the first mention I saw of her death was (here) about how everyone should stop constantly talking about her death.

    That might say something about how insular the internet-media-blog world / feedback loop is, or it might say something about how out of the loop I am!

    This reminds me a little of when I occasionally log on to reddit and see a funny picture at the top of the page of–I don’t know–a cat that looks like a Pokemon, and then a hundred comments about how it’s a “repost” or whatever. It’s only matters if the content is a repost for people who spend a lot of time on reddit!

    But, anyway, I did weigh in when Ray Bradbury died recently. He was an important writer to me when I was growing up and I wanted to say something about it! So I wrote a little blog post about my feelings towards his work. Maybe some people found it intrusive or attention-grabbing, but… I don’t know. Who cares? Life is short. Nora Ephron doesn’t care what we say about her now, right? And four days from now no one will even really remember that she died, and her family can continue to deal with their real grieving process as privately or publically as they like just like the families of everyone else.

    • I think whether or not something like that is intrusive can be put down to the actual content. A thoughtful piece on how said celebrity affected you or whatever is pertectly fine. However “RIP xxx yur in heven with teh angelzz!!!11 LOL” deserves a solid dickpunch.

  25. If there is one thing humans love, it’s lumping ourselves together to stroke each others’ tragedy boners. I don’t know what it is about us, but we seem to try and all push to the front of the grieve class going, “me, I care the most! Me! I’m sad! No, I’ll be there for you if you need to talk, I’m the best at grieving not you.” You see it within a group like a high school that loses a classmate most people didn’t even know or an office where the guy in the mailroom who’s name you never bothered to learn dies, but now that you can see instant news reaction the celebrity death greif has become a real Battle Royale.

    • Tragedy Boner-Strokers is my new band’s name.
      We’re kind of like Melt-Banana’s bratty bubblegum little sister that grew up listening to Whitesnake and Lil Wayne exclusively while lighting army men figures on fire in the driveway.

      • Tragedy Boner-strokers are eclipsed only by the “I care the LEAST” people who compete to be the first in line for the grief backlash horde to say how much they don’t care at all that a celebrity has died and shame on the rest of you for caring because that is lame and you didn’t really KNOW them. Congratulations for being at the front of the line, Gabe. You truly did beat us all this time.

        • I don’t think Gabe’s point was that he cares the least about the passing of famous people and shame on everyone for feeling loss and expressing it on social media sites.

          His point is that twitter itself is a far-from-adequate eulogy-delivery system, and the 140 character, hashtag-heavy-for-trending-topics format is a hindrance to remembering and mourning proper to those people whose lives the deceased actually touched.

  26. As a few other commenters have pointed out, I think there’s a difference between #bandwagontweets and genuine expressions of grief. Sure, 140 characters isn’t the most thoughtful way to mourn, but the communal aspect of Twitter does lend itself to these expressions. I know I saw a lot of tweets when Maurice Sendak and Ray Bradbury passed away, and they were almost all written by people who’d grown up with their works. (I believe Videogum also commented on these deaths, including a #BluRayBradbury joke which was funny but not exactly a celebration of Farehnheit 451.) A moment of silence works sometimes, but if we use Twitter to communicate about our feelings on politics and food and everything else, then silence might indicate a lack of caring or awareness. If we want to talk about the problem of “Internet chatter,” sure, that is a thing, but you can’t isolate this one precise pocket and say “let’s get rid of it” because it’s a necessary phenomenon given its context. Also, Videogum is not the place to discuss elimination of Internet chatter.

    • I agree insofar as the problem is generalized and it makes no sense to isolate this one thing as something to be considered lacking in propriety. There is no private. A moment of silence is nonsensical in this context.

    • I am not sure I see the logic in your point that a “moment of silence” indicates a lack of caring or awareness. Your argument suggests that such twitter users maintain a RESPONSIBILITY to address such losses. They do not, nor should they maintain such responsibility, especially when it requires them to fashion comments for the sake of their followers (lest they are deemed as “lacking care or awareness”). It is not a REQUIREMENT as such to comment on the death of people, nor should it be, the alternative is vanity. This is precisely Gabe’s point, that this particular form of overshare is beholden to the artifice of “responsibility” to comment on such things, which “chatter” of such nature only verifies and perpetuates, and falsely at that.

      As for Videogum being no place to discuss the elimination of internet chatter… I would contend that never has any other blog encouraged me to go paint or exercise, or to get out of the house and enjoy the fleeting sunshine before Cilian Murphy fails (OR NOT FAILS THE CHOICE IS YOURS) to save it…

      • Even as I wrote that comment, I knew “lack of caring or awareness” was not quite the phrase I wanted. I didn’t mean that not commenting on something means you have no opinion on it. I only meant to say that if you’re commenting on this and that and that other stupid thing, then you’re going to comment on a death that’s meaningful to you in whatever way. It’s just something that’s bound to happen. You probably still disagree with me, but I want to clarify my meaning, even though we’ve all moved on from this post.

  27. Yeah, what you guys said.

  28. There was a modestly thoughtful essay about tweet-speak in n+1 recently. It’s titled Please RT, so you can find it if interested.

  29. Yay! I can log in again! Anyway, I feel like such a hypocrite. I too, was feeling a little annoyed by the sudden influx of RIP’s for Nora Ephron on Twitter yesterday by some whom, sorry, but I questioned whether they really knew who she was prior to her passing. Then I remembered how I fully spammed all my tweeps with RIP’s for MCA of the Beastie Boys a few months back. RIP MCA!!

  30. Before we extend this ban to Facebook, Oreo cookies would like to share some thoughts with us. Oreo?

  31. Imagine there’s no internet

    I wonder if you can

    No twitter feuds or Facebook

    Just a pen in hand…

  32. Gabe hates the Internet. No, wait. Gabe finds the way the Internet is popularly used to be problematic. Maybe even terrifying and dangerous – if not just annoying! I just deleted my facebook account. But this isn’t about me!! Aah!

  33. You had me at “No More Twitter”

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