I have this thing I do. Whenever a story breaks where a celebrity dies or a high-profile tragedy takes over the news cycle, I immediately Google-stalk the participants' social media to see if I can somehow piece together the meaning of life.
Let me tell you, it's a really time-consuming -- and almost always -- an incredibly #dark hobby. When you know the person, like I did with comedian Greg Giraldo, who died two years ago, it's not just a ghoulish endeavor, it's heartbreaking, too. His final tweet? A plug for a show he never did. He overdosed in a hotel instead. As Jim Gaffigan wrote on Twitter in response to the death two years ago: "Dear addiction, fuck you. Goodbye Greg. I love you."
The death of Latin music star Jenni Rivera on Sunday was no exception to my Twitter tombstone search compulsion. All I had to do was see "RIP Jenni Rivera" trending to find out if she had a presence online. Check. So did her final tweets shed any insight into the meaning of life? Her last one is a retweet referencing a battery dying on a computer and then simply: "Good night." But the second to last one gave me chills.
It was a retweet actually. And super eerie. Translated from Spanish it was: "Muuuuah you are so sweet! RT @Javier_Estrella: Here with beautiful Jenni Rivera. Thanks for everything, God bless and protect you. I loved you, now I adore you!"
Nothing like Twitter to make the very act of prayer seem incredibly futile and laughable. And I say that as a believer. Keep her safe, God! Crash, you're dead. Even bleaker are the conspiracy theories from fans of hers that are saying that the plane malfunction that took her down was not an accident. Hundreds of retweets point to the account of @zeettas, which has only two tweets, both directed to Rivera, one of which says, in 2010 (translated): "YOU ARE THE NEXT TO DIE." I don't take it seriously, of course, but I read every word.
If you want to go even further down the social media death K-hole, there's the final Instagram picture posted by her makeup artist, Jacob Yebale, who was on the plane with her, showing them moments before the plane crashed and killed everyone on board. Reading the hundreds of Instagram comments to that photo is like gawking at a funeral you're not invited to. Tiny images of hands drawn together in prayer are posted after the concerned commenter who notes that the plane isn't on the radar and it evolves into: "God have mercy! For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (II Corinthians 6:2 NKJV)"
Which begs the question, what the fuck is my problem? I'm not even a fan of this singer. I had never HEARD OF HER. Tragedies like this are just that, a tragedy, but what is my morbid curiosity with piecing together some meaning -- going on this virtual funereal treasure hunt?
When Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh died in 2011, I didn't stop at just reading his final tweet which was a throwaway, advertising his art, but I kept going until I found the one a few months before in which he predicted his death and said it was time for him to write a will. Shudder.
My fascination might stem from the fact that I spend an inordinate amount of time on social media in my life, and I recognize how fleeting all of it is -- from this post on xoJane to that tweet advertising this post on xoJane to any kind of desperate desire to project some kind of fucking image via social media. How many times have you strategically thought about what your last tweet was -- and if something were to happen, would it be your last tweet? Only me?
Some Twitter tombstones serve as a reminder of how petty it all is. Andrew Breitbart's last tweet before he dropped dead of a heart attack at 43 was apologizing for calling someone a putz. Liz Taylor's final tweet was almost a deep lyrical sentiment about life ("Every breath you take today should be with someone else in mind. I love you."), but then she tweeted, "My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!" and then she died.
Bet she wishes she could have curated that one.
Or maybe not. Maybe that's the point.
Because in a way that's kind of the ultimate satirization and summation of the modern entertainment industry in a nutshell, isn't it? Hey be sure to check out this press mention. Hey, I'm still alive. Hey, I still exist on this planet. No, really. I'm with Kim Kardashian right now so I definitely have to exist.
Before dying mid-life, Jenni Rivera was going through a high-profile divorce, her songs were about female empowerment and the tabloids even started rumors that her ex was having an affair with her own daughter. Her last concert stage was in the shape of a cross. And none of these details are any of my business or mean a goddamned thing, now do they? Come to think of it, with more than a million followers, she might not even have written her own Twitter account. I've known way lesser celebrities who've asked me to help find them ghostwriters for their accounts. I get the game behind the game, and yet I still can't stop foraging to see what scrap of wisdom every final "Rosebud" utterance might hold.
Will it be an embarrassment? Will the person seem to have lived their life to the fullest? Is it tragic and does the tragicness of it all make me feel more alive? Did they finally land that interview in Bazaar with Kim K?
I suppose when it comes down to it, this exercise is a reminder for me to actually risk in life and to really just not give a shit because it's over -- boom -- maybe right now. Or right now. Or tomorrow. Or maybe when I'm 102 and the Internet as we know it will no longer cease to exist but instead will be replaced by something we're not even aware of yet that will be the next big thing to capture our stupid or profound or crass or ogling unintentional final thoughts in an entirely new and sophisticated medium.
Maybe it will be MySpace.
Until that time, here are some of the more haunting Twitter last hurrahs I've uncovered over the years. Most of the people didn't know it would be their last online words when they tweeted it -- outside of the cases of suicide I list below, which let me say right now: Trigger warning.
The final messages are taunting, horrific, cryptic and cruel. And in a strange way, too much and not enough at all.
One-hundred-and-forty characters can be like that.
“New york, new york. Big city of dreams, but everything in new york aint always what it seems.” -- Adam Goldstein (DJ_AM)
"before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun'" -- Tony Nicklinson (@TonyNicklinson), who suffered "locked-in syndrome"
“Time to get back into the run of things. I’m filled up on Eggnog, figgy pudding, and all that other Christmas stuff. Time for the gym! baby!” -- Randy Savage (@themachoking)
"#TheDarkKnightRises @Reel_Nerds oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever." -- Andrew Sullivan (@sully_2003), before the Aurora massacre
“@ariannahuff thrivemovement.com” -- Bob Welch (@xFleetwoodMacBW)
"finally got a gun" and then an Instagram picture of her gun which she calls "my bitch" -- teenager Ashley Duncan (@kingjadine), before she reportedly shot herself with it
"I am back in Afghanistan and wonder what lies before me this time." -- Jeni Ayris (@jeni_ayris), who was killed by a suicide bomber
“My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!! J.mp/eqQsGa” -- Elizabeth Taylor (@dameelizabeth)
"@SilveradoSlim: #StillFunny '@marsxjr: RT @ink2flashyy: Driving tweeting sipping the cup fuck yolo I'm turning it up' quoted Drake song" -- @ink2flashyy, who later ran a red light and died in a car crash along with his four friends
“In Japan there’s a 20 foot picture of me endorsing one of my favourite hotels. Seeing it is surreal. PS. Stay there, put food on my table!” -- Dennis Hopper (@dennishopper)
"I'd love to hear what you have to say but I wont be around" and then "Take two. I hope I get this right." -- 18-year-old Ashley Billasano, who sent 144 tweets before killing herself
“oinka oikna oinka why you awake” -- Amy Winehouse (@amyjademermaid)
"Gusts of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work . . . I guess I've lived long enough" and then " "holy fuck holy fuck this is terrifying." --Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old Notre Dame junior, before a tower collapsed amid violent winds
"I got me an uglyass stalker" followed up by "This can't be happening" and "So scared right now" and then "It takes one step at a time." -- 16-year-old Hannah Truelove (@hannahtruelove), whose body was found murdered in the woods near her home
“Premier of proving ground tonight at 8 on G4 tumblr.com/xxt2zz)obm" -- Ryan Dunn (@ryandunntv)
“Ahhh see you sooon!!” and then “Should’ve known” -- SUNY Brockport freshman Alexandra Kogut, who was beaten to death in her dorm room, allegedly by her boyfriend
“To Paris With Love is #4 on the Billboard Dance Club Play Charts! Xo” -- Donna Summer (@theDonnasummer)
"I called you a putz cause I thought you were being intentionally disingenuous. If not I apologize." -- Andrew Breitbart (@andrewbreitbart)
“I can’t, im done, I give up.” –- Felicia Garcia (@feliciagarcia97), who committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a Staten Island train after rumors went around about her sexual encounters
“My new album The Titanic Requiem is in stores in UK today and rest of Europe later this week. Hope you enjoy it! Bit.ly/H7ilPf” -- Robin Gibb (@RobinGibb)
“statement at www.beastieboys.com” -- Adam Yauch (@MCAdamYauch)
“SILVA WINS!!!!!!!” -- Michael Clarke Duncan (@MichaelClarkeDuncan)
"http://twitpic.com/2fflev - Border collie jill surveying the view from atop the sand dune" -- Dr Frank Ryan (@drfrankryan), a plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills to Heidi Montag, before he fell off a cliff
“BE INSPIRED!” -- Heavy D (@heavyd)
So, I ask you, what would you want your last tweet to be? Do you social media stalk the recently departed, too? Do I need to see a special psychologist about this morbid habit of mine?
I do know that I would want my last tweet to be my favorite Anais Nin quote: "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
I'll have to give someone my password to make sure that happens in 80 years.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.