'Gone too soon' is a phrase that litters tributes to dearly departed stars. While it does apply to the likes of Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain - all passing before their thirtieth birthdays - the term has had even more resonance in recent years thanks to the phenomenon of the premature social media obituary.
Just this week, a Facebook page entitled "R.I.P. Bill Cosby" surfaced, sending Twitter users into a frenzy and leading to similar tributes going viral across the site. But the death notice was soon exposed as a hoax, with the 75-year-old comedian rebutting rumours with a post on his own website.
At the weekend it was Russell Brand's turn, when Twitter rumours surfaced that the comedian had died in a snowboarding accident in Zermatt, Switzerland (bizarrely the same location and turn of events that have also claimed the lives of Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy in previous hoaxes). Brand toyed with his Twitter followers, retweeting a link to reports of his death and adding: " Bloody hell. I better cancel the milk."
While celebrity death hoaxes are nothing new - in 1816 the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge confronted a man in a hotel lobby who was discussing a coroner's report that detailed his own suicide by hanging - the power allowed by social media for mass self-publishing means sneaky whispers can become headline news within a matter of hours.
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