For the first 24 hours after Steve Jobs' death, I'd estimate two out of every three status updates from my Facebook friends was a response, a heartfelt "thank you Steve!" of some kind. A number of friends changed their picture to his. And I can relate! When I heard about his death I too felt an "ohmigod" moment. Several weeks back I'd already preordered the upcoming Walter Isaacson bio on him, scheduled to come out mid-November but now evidently being rushed to print.
But I'm not sure I understand my own reaction, much less the collective grief. It seems to me this is as big a response to a celebrity death as I've experienced in the Facebook era. No death of a Hollywood star (Paul Newman, say) or of a Christian luminary (...I don't know, John Stott?) has provoked remotely this reaction. I wonder if Nelson Mandela's death will rival it. One friend just compared the reaction to Princess Di's death.
The man indeed invented or stewarded the invention of some cool stuff. I type this on a MacBook and I learned about his death on my iPhone. But, geez, they're just trinkets. Yes, I like Pixar movies as much as the next person, but he didn't actually write or direct or animate any of them. Yes, he's amazing but...this?
Is it that we all crave inspiration and he's about as good an inspirational figure as we'll find? Amazing early success that was game-changing, forced out of his company at 30, stewarded the creation of Pixar while biding his time in exile, back in charge of Apple in his early 40s, spun out the iPod and iPhone and iPad just to show off, worth (we're told) $8.3 billion, pancreatic cancer in the prime of life, beat it for a full two years longer (living seven years post-diagnosis) than almost anyone else has...it's quite a story. But...he's not (on the surface?) a spiritual leader. And Bill Gates also did some amazing stuff involving computers, but I can't imagine his death having the same impact.
So what do you think it is? Please explain my own reaction to me.
[Note from Dan: I wonder if Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech will shed some light on this.]