More Than a Comedian: Exploring Cybermourning and Parasocial Relationships the Night Hollywood Star Robin Williams Died


Kim SmithFollow

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-10-2018


Using thematic analysis, the researcher studied 1,299 condolences posted on the obituary website Legacy. com to come up with themes that opened the window to cybermourning and parasocial relationships on the night worldly-famous comedian and actor Robin Williams hanged himself, August, 11, 2014. In addition to the themes that emerged, loss, appreciation and celebration, the study revealed that a majority of cybermourners had developed a deep parasocial relationship with Williams and viewed him as more than a comedian. They saw him as a close friend or relative who had died. The deeply emotional posts outnumbered two to one the posts from cybermourners whose condolences were respectful, short and generic. Fans also shared intimate life struggles associated with drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness with their virtual “close” friend Williams who was also struggling with the same demons. This paper discusses cybermourning, parasocial relationships and the pros and cons of such online relationships.