Published: Dec. 4, 2017

In the wake of the deaths of Alan Rickman, David Bowie and Prince in 2016, grieving fans flocked to social media platforms like Facebook, sharing their memories, expressing their condolences, and grieving in what researchers describe as a “virtual wake.”

But many fans found a surprisingly toxic environment online, where self-appointed “grief police” told people they had no reason to grieve for a stranger at all, and some dissed the dead saying they “deserved” it.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by CU Boulder’s Katie Gach (Gatch) that provides insight into death, grief and social media.