At its best, Twitter is a tool that hemorrhages breaking news in a useful way to a wide swath of the population. At its worst, it’s the gateway drug for those on the road toward chronic, irreversible oversharing and the Internet fame that tends to go along with it.
In the days since heiress Casey Johnson’s death, the latter has been painfully obvious. Tweeting breaking news or even mundane thoughts is one thing, but tweeting condolences? Something just doesn’t feel right about a 140-character expression of grief.
At an extreme end of the spectrum is Johnson’s fiancee, Tila Tequila, whose first tweet after Johnson’s passing on Monday read, “Everyone please pray 4 my Wifey Casey Johnson. She has passed away. Thank u for all ur love and support but I will be offline to be w family.”
If only she went offline. Instead she posted at least 75 more missives. Some were about Johnson, some promoted Tequila’s new blog and some were personal attacks at blogger Perez Hilton, who criticized her prolific posting. He replied in one tweet, “You should try and get custody of her daughter. That'd be GREAT publicity, all you crave in life!”
Is all of this just the new way of coping with death in the digital age, or has some line been crossed? As it turns out, it might be a little bit of both.
“When celebrities Twitter their condolences, and the family of the person isn’t a part of that network, you have to ask, ‘Are they doing it for publicity?’ ” psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig said in response to recent celebrity tweets.
But if you’re not a celebrity, Twitter might be the only outlet available, Ludwig pointed out. “There are some who had no other way to communicate to a family, like when Michael Jackson died. It’s their way of saying, ‘We notice, we care.’ ”
“Sometimes a sympathy card or phone call is really difficult to do for people. In some ways (tweeting) feels safer,” Ludwig said. “It’s awkward and technology can help us hide behind difficult feelings.”
Or, in the case of Tila Tequila, amplify them.
Weekend box office
The big question this weekend is whether horror of the non-vampire variety can sell. To that end, there’s the wide release of horror flick “Daybreakers,” starring Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke, which opens in 2,523 theaters.
It’s up against “Leap Year,” a rom-com starring Amy Adams and opening in almost as many theaters. Then there’s “Youth in Revolt,” which is getting most of its buzz because of baby-faced Michael Cera’s ability to don a moustache in his leading role.
Even though “Daybreakers” is rated R, expect it to come out on top, but only among the new releases. “Avatar,” I predict, will have another weekend at No. 1.
Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter @courtneyatmsnbc