The XX Factor

A Life Reduced to an Emoticon

As news of actress Brittany Murphy’s death spread throughout the blogosphere last night, her name-both spelled correctly and with a misplaced “e”-was a trending topic on Twitter. Her 32 years were summed up by strangers in less than 140 characters, often peppered with RIPs and copious frowny faces. I know that this is the way people communicate now. I’m not going to go on some sort of Andy Rooney-style rant, or insist that their grief or upset, however brief, wasn’t real. But there’s certainly a lack of gravitas when a person’s death is sandwiched between raves for Avatar and shout-outs to your girl Snooki from Jersey Shore .

Commenters on Gawker’s post about Murphy’s death were similarly nonplussed about the lack of depth in Twittered and blogged responses. ” Here comes my favorite part. When every internet commenter offers their ‘condolences’ and their ‘deepest sympathies,’ ” one wrote . “Guess what internet commenters? Her family doesn’t give a shit about your condolences.” That’s a pretty over-the-top harsh reaction -but there is something unsettling about the superficiality of the grief of total strangers.