Don't Post About Someone's Death Before They Die

Things weren’t looking good after rapper DMX suffered a heart attack due to an overdose last week. His attorney announced he was on life support the next day. Social media support poured in from celebrities and countless fans as bleaker news leaked out about DMX’s condition. He was in a vegetative state with no brain function, and following a series of tests yesterday, there was no change. And that’s when social media kicked into overdrive.

Condolences and remembrance posts flooded Twitter and Instagram mourning the rapper’s death, even without official word. People posted cute videos of DMX and his daughter on a rollercoaster and screencaps of him taking care of orchids. They shared their favorite pictures and performances. It was a collective grief, the kind that social media is perfect for.

But there was only one problem—DMX isn’t dead.

Mournful remembrance quickly morphed into internet irresponsibility. DMX’s manager Steve Rifkind took to Instagram asking for people to stop spreading rumors and wait for an official family statement.

Prematurely jumping on news is an inevitable side effect of social media. People in general aren’t totally to blame for this—sharing news and information is part of our nature. Social media is literally catered to that desire. And it’s hard not to react when a beloved figure suffers such a cruel fate.

DMX is the kind of artist that inspires good feelings in everyone who enjoyed his music. He brought an unparalleled energy to the microphone that was absolutely infectious, the kind that could make an entire house party or concert hall or outdoor crowd go nuts. And he matched his rugged rap persona with an undeniably softer side that makes him all the more endearing. It’s why people were so eager and quick to share the funny, tender moments he provided and wanted to celebrate the good energy he brought into the world.

But posting condolences and memories before someone actually dies only complicates things. MF Doom’s family waited until after the rapper’s passing to announce, and it’s easy to see why. Collective public mourning, while well-intentioned, brings an undue amount of stress onto a suffering family already dealing with an incredibly heart-wrenching decision.

Twitter corrected course, providing a trending topic that explain DMX was still alive. But the desire to be first will alway exist as long as social media does. And the desire to have the information first creates the desire to react quickly, offer up a memory or condolences or, god forbid, a hot take. It’s the kind of lesson social media may never learn.