Cybermourning Frames and Collective Memory: Remembering Comedian Robin Williams on Legacy.com

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-8-2015


Cyberspace, which has a plethora of online memorials and obituary sites with guest books such as Legacy.com, has become an open forum for public expression of grief, commonly called cybermourning. Our framing analysis of 1,114 condolences that were posted on Legacy.com immediately following the announcement of the tragic suicide of comedian and actor Robin Williams on August 11, 2014 reveals fans negotiating the healing process through cybermourning. Three themes emerged from the cyber condolences -- loss, appreciation, and a new beginning. Analysis of the themes revealed three frames -- relationship, redemption, and release--used by cybermourners to make sense of and give meaning to Williams’ death. The themes and frames in this first research project on Legacy.com supports previous research findings that cybermourning has become a new avenue to facilitate the grieving and healing process. They also suggest a bottoms-up approach to collective memory that incorporates memories of ordinary individuals, which would be different than the top-down approach filtered through journalists whose obituaries and news stories about a celebrity’s death have helped guide collective memory.