It’s only been a little over 48 hours since millions of people watched the viral clip of rapper XXXtentacion’s lifeless body in his car after being gunned down outside a motorcycle dealership. The devastation from the video and the 20-year-old’s tragic death resulted in an outpouring of grief from fans and critics a-like, with many viewers condemning social media and blogs for sharing the unblurred images from his final moments. HelloBeautiful caught up with psychologist Dr. Forshee about the effects of witnessing such disturbing content in our viral obsessed culture.
What do you think are the psychological effects of people witnessing the rapper’s final moments on social media?
Dr. Forshee: When social media portrays violent acts such as a video or photo of someone being assaulted, involved in a violent act, or attempting or completing suicide, the psychological effects can be wide ranging and are never positive. Psychological effects include: bringing up traumatic responses for those who have personally experienced or witnessed violence, this can generate significant fear in those who once felt safe in their community.
Do you think people witnessing the video increased the outpouring of support for him? Why/why not?
Dr. Forshee: When humans are faced with witnessing or hearing than an individual was violently injured, assaulted, victimized, or involved in a violent act, no matter what the individuals history is (good or bad), we can relate and empathize with the human emotion of pain and loss. In a situation such as this, human emotion takes over which is likely why despite X’s questionable past, there is an increased outpouring of support with regard to the positive aspects of the positive characteristics of XXX and a minimization of anything negative. Additionally, it is socially unacceptable for individuals to speak negatively about anybody when there is a general understanding that they have been assaulted, victimized, or a victim of a violent crime.
A lot of young people are affected by his death. What are the implications of young, impressionable kids listening to his hateful, violent music?
Dr. Forshee: It depends. Not every individual who listens to what is reported to be violent and hateful music is not necessarily vulnerable or impressionable to the messages relayed in the content of the music.
How do we make sense of people who excuse his violent past because of his music/cultural impact? How should we delineate artist from personhood?
Dr. Forshee: Individuals who are in the public eye tend to be glorified by those who are not in the public eye. It is very difficult for fans to delineate what they see this person to be (successful, talented, admirable) vs what that celebrity really is and who they really are. The façade in which the media and the celebrity themselves are portrayed creates an inauthentic belief system with regard to that celebrity creating extreme difficulty in feeling anything for that celebrity other than idolization.
A lot of people have criticized his friends/family and other celeb mentors for not stepping in while he was alive. How do friends and loved ones protect themselves from someone’s dangerous habits while still being helpful to them?
Dr. Forshee: There is a fine line between supporting a loved one and enabling a loved one. When someone is engaging in dangerous behaviors or habits, it’s important that you are there for them as a support when they ask for your help within reason. If you notice this is a pattern over time at which your loved one does not seem to be helping themselves or not taking responsibility or not implementing change, this is a sign that you may need to step back as to not enable this person’s behaviors. Enabling is not helpful because it does not allow your loved one to experience the things they need to go through emotionally and psychologically to come to a place of self-actualization, awareness into their own issues, or confidence with regard to their ability to learn how to manage their own life.
Dr Forshee is a Doctor of Psychology and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in both New Jersey and New York. For more than a decade, she has worked full-time in the fields of clinical psychology and social work while concurrently pursuing her degrees, licenses and certifications. Her practice bridges the gap between academia and the real world, blending scholarly research with practical application to solve complex problems. You can check out her website here.