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OPINION

How the internet deals with celebrity death in 12 steps

By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins

RedEye

9:33 AM CDT, June 20, 2013

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It sucks to admit, but celebrities have been known to die from time to time. Americans collectively lose their shit when circumstances like this occur, like we forget that the Reaper is coming for me, you, yo momma and your cousin too. As we become more and more acclimated with living our lives online, you notice certain behaviors starting to occur more frequently. Don't believe me? Let's chart the 12 steps of dealing with celebrity death online.

1. Unverified speculation. This can be a tweeted link or a random person from high school posting on your Facebook timeline. You barely notice it, but once you do, you immediately advance to ...

2. Nancy Drew status. You barely know what your e-mail password is, but the concept of a person you just saw in a movie like a month ago no longer existing on this mortal coil drives you to drop whatever it is you're doing and do more research on whether or not the celeb has actually died than you did in five years in college. (Don't stress about that extra year, BTW. Studies show millenials need more time to adapt to new surroundings ... yes, that's it.)

3. TMZ calls it. (Unless it's Lil' Wayne. They really [bleeped] that one up.)

4. Wave 1: This is when all of the people who spend all day on social media start posting and tweeting statements of disbelief ("Wow" "Man! RIP to _______")

5. Wave 2: When all of the people who spend all day on Facebook (not the same as the people who spend all day on social media, trust me) begin to post statements of disbelief (see above) and confusion ("Is it true about _____?") At this point, you will encounter your first corny attempt at making a joke about the recently deceased. It's almost always unfunny.

6. The shift: Let's do a little Choose Your Own Adventure right quick:

If you answered yes to No. 1: Expect a complete 180 from a majority of the population. The same folks who were LOL-ing about someone going through hell are now going to celebrate the angel making his/her ascent to heaven. You might get nauseated.

If you answered yes to No. 2: The person in question will only be referred to by the name of their iconic character, even if they stopped playing that character 40-plus years ago. Film/TV buffs will dig up archival YouTube footage of lost roles.

If you answered yes to No. 3: ?uestlove will weigh in. He's the greatest encylopedia of music knowledge on Earth and has heard every song ever recorded, so expect no less than 19 links to demos, early recordings and live performances that weren't even filmed, so wait, how did he ... shhh. It's ?uestlove, my dear. He knows all.

7. Full tribute immersion: Your feed is now consumed. Hastily put together photo galleries and memes, comments and official statements from people who worked with the celebrity and brands. Expect a full statement from your dramatic cousin on Facebook totally declaring his/her undying fanhood and this being "a very dark day for us all." This bullshit will garner no less than 19 "likes."

8: The reminder: "Reminder" in this case meaning either "Here's a reminder that there are assholes on the internet" or "Here's a reminder that there are people who legit only check Facebook once a day/week/month." The former will spout hardcore ignorance as a signal flare for attention and/or acknowledgement. The latter will infuritate the self-appointed internet cops by posting something mundane or unrelated to the current mourning rhetoric. (Also, expect a lot of idiots to quack about the "rule of three" because apparently celebrities are mythical unicorns who don't just die, they HAVE to die in triples. #Illuminati #StayWokeDog)

9: Think-pieces: Some will be beautiful. Some will rival Mr. Fantastic in their ability to streeeeeeeetch ("What ________ taught us about being a good PR pro," anyone?) All of them will be long.

10: Memoriam: Glossy covers. Special editions. Tribute mixes, This is when you're reminded that print is still pretty damn cool and you should probably renew your subscription. (You will go to dinner and forget to renew your subscription.)

11: The cash-in: Links to buy stuff, including those special editions you just read for free. If the deceased was a musician, expect re-issued box sets and a brief spike in sales. Remember kids: While the celebrity is no longer alive, capitalism will never be killed.

12: Acceptance: Life slowly begins to roll again. There will be an "In Memoriam" mention at an awards show (or even worse, an omission, causing people to collectively lose their shit) and we'll all get back to making fun of the latest "trainwreck" and laughing at people we've never met. You know, normal.

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