There is nothing more tragic or disturbing than the murder of a young child. That’s one of the reasons why JonBenet Ramsey’s murder case shook up the world. More than twenty years later, it’s still a sensitive and haunting story to discuss. Unfortunately, singer Ariana Grande didn’t quite get the memo. A few weeks ago, she posted a joke about JonBenet on the Instagram of close friend Doug Middlebrook.
Middlebrook had posted a picture of a magazine cover featuring JonBenet with the caption “no one has done more covers”. Ariana left the comment “I can’t WAIT for this to be your halloween look”. This suggested her friend dress up as the late JonBenet for Halloween. Yikes!
Middlebrook responded “working on it already.”
The social media insensitivity immediately sparked backlash from fans. They were shocked by the idea of making the gruesome murder a potential Halloween costume. The tweet has been taken down, but screenshots are still circulating.
JonBenet Ramsey Case
JonBenet Ramsey was a 6-year-old child beauty pageant queen who was found strangled to death in her own home. She lived with her parents and was found dead on Christmas of 1996. Although more than two decades have passed, the murder case is still cold. Her immediate family members have been cleared from responsibility but the mystery of the case still leaves many with burning questions.
Her case is still open with Boulder, Colorado’s police department. The murder has inspired documentaries, including a mini-series on CBS.
Eventually realizing the shock, Ariana later apologized for her insensitive comment about JonBenet, deleting it off Instagram. Her friend also deleted his post. With over 64 million followers on Twitter and over 160 million followers on Instagram it’s obvious how influential she is. The power of her role as an A-List pop star shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Although she did a “thank u, delete” to the posts, some fans questioned the sincerity of her apology, pointing out her comment had been left up for an entire day. With great power comes great responsibility. Many young celebrities face the worst part of that when they say or do things impulsively. They can immediately face devastating consequences to their career, and not realizing the profound impact they make on a global scale.
What can we learn from the Ariana Grande/JonBenet mess?
Whether you’re a big time celebrity or a local small business owner, some things are just off limits to joke about in the world of social media. If the suggested incident involves physical or emotional pain (murder, assault, etc.), you should avoid saying anything that can be mistaken for being insensitive. Every person has a unique and private experience with these matters and mindlessly passing them off as a joke can trigger deep-rooted trauma for your audience.
As a brand, singer, or marketer it is vital to know the weight of words BEFORE posting them for the world to read. “Delete” buttons won’t save you. Once your social media has a large enough following, every little thing you say will be watched and documented, for better or for worse.
That’s why practicing cultural sensitivity is vital for professionals in every industry. You may not be a celebrity, but you do have the responsibility to use your influence wisely. Think twice before cracking a joke and use your conscience as a compass before posting!