September 17, 2018

LIEBERMAN | Misremembering Mac Miller

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Facebook has become a bit of a funeral home for me. I click on my home page and see a memorial post. I see reminders of those who I miss. Grief comes and goes, and sometimes it’s for people we never expected.

I won’t pretend to be the world’s biggest Mac Miller fan. The point of connection between him and me, in the universe, was probably pretty average when he was alive. I saw him at Governor’s Ball in New York City. I read articles online about his goodness and his sweetness.

You never could’ve warned me that I’d have spent last week crying over Mac Miller. It was surprising, like the sound of clattering silverware, but it was tumbling down my throat. I was checking Twitter with a rapid breath, a sickness, a nervousness. It felt so familiar.

Eight days before I left for my freshman year of college, I found out that my boyfriend of eight months had passed away — on Twitter.

On Twitter.

This person, who I talked to nearly every moment of every day, who knows the most intimate parts of myself, who I spent my senior year of high school connected to at the hip, passed away unexpectedly. And I heard about it on Twitter.

On Twitter.

A “Rest in Peace” Tweet.

I still remember his name, the boy who tweeted it, who was clued in by his father, a first responder, who broke the news before his family even knew. Who talked to him maybe twice, who tweeted,

“Rest in Peace.”

I don’t forgive him. Even though he didn’t know how wrong it was — what he was doing. I got six calls in six minutes.

“Is this true?”

The moment I heard his mother’s voice over the phone, I beseeched her. And then I knew. But I had already heard. From a tweet.

When someone dies, we take to social media. A strange sense of direction, maybe, but it feels almost natural. I seek out sympathy for some of my most cutting emotions on Facebook; I talk about the news, I hear about babies being born, I see relationships getting glued together. When people die, we see their face everywhere. This is how a memorial works. We are in the process of remembering. We do this remembering together. But what are the effects of this sort of feeling sharing?

The sympathy feels temporary. Soon, Mac Miller will be off all of our timelines. This is natural, the progression of time, but for so many, this wound will be open and raw for the longer than the length of something trending on Twitter. Those close to him, those who knew him well, those who had more than two or three points of connection, will still hurt even when we stop remembering.

I cried so much for Ariana Grande, who used to be in a relationship with Mac Miller. Instagram had to disable commenting on her Instagram account because she was being bombarded, her own feelings of grief getting buried under strangers’ cruel frustrations. Grief doesn’t just include sadness, it includes anger, too. And sometimes, when people are looking to point a finger — to make sense of something senseless — an ex-girlfriend feels like an easy target. I know this. I’ve seen this, and I’ve felt this.

Maybe I’m less concerned with the temporariness of grief when it’s posted on social media.

Maybe I’m more concerned with the misremembering. There is so much in a relationship that you do not see. Among all the people blaming Ariana Grande for Mac Miller’s death, I also saw videos of them, laughing, talking, listening to music — looking so fully in love. I am so sure that in their relationship, because I believe this about every long relationship, especially when addiction is involved, that there was a lot of pain. There was so much love, more than we could ever see from photos and videos, but there was pain, and sadness, and trying, and failing, too.

The world might misremember their love, based on the bad things that happened at the very tail-end. I hope, so deeply, that she doesn’t always remember it that way.

So, be more careful, when you write out an “RIP.” Think of how those words might touch, or torture, someone else. Think of how it could trigger a torrential downpour of emotions. Think of all the points of connection in the universe. Try to be more careful. Try not to misremember.
Sarah Lieberman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Blueberries for Sal runs every other Tuesday this semester. She can be reached at slieberman@cornellsun.com.