8 Apr 2014

Peaches Geldof death: how last words became ‘last tweet’

Life and death on social media: Peaches Geldof posted daily on Instagram, giving followers an intimate window on her personal life. Her photos have now been removed.

Peaches Geldof posted an image of herself as a toddler with her mother, Paula Yates, on Instagram hours before her death. (Getty)

It is less than 24 hours since Peaches Geldof’s death was announced, with Sir Bob Geldof describing the family as “beyond pain”.

In that time, more than 90,000 people have newly followed her account on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Twitter messages containing “Peaches” have soared from a handful to more than 440,000 overnight. And an Instagram photo has become the defining image of this tragedy.

There’s no such thing as last words now – it’s last tweets Tom Latchem

The picture (above) shows Peaches as a toddler in the arms of her mother Paula Yates, who died following a heroin overdose in 2000. The caption reads “me and my mum”. She shared this picture onto Twitter just a few hours before she was found dead at home in Kent on Monday.

Today the internet is awash with speculation about what happened to the 25-year-old but the cause of death is not expected for days.

Instagram photo: Elliot Smith.

Digital condolence books

And so the busy social media accounts of this young woman have become de facto digital condolence books.

Peaches posted pictures and videos of her baby sons, Astala and Phaedra, to photo-sharing site Instagram on a daily basis.

Her last updates here (which came after that final, haunting, tweet) show the children in the bath and then playing with a toothbrush. The captions feature jokes and everyday observations about life as a young mum. Her bio line reads “Waging a never ending war against dirty nappies…”

A few days ago she captured son Phaedra sitting, smiling, on a bed, surrounded by old photographs of Peaches as a child with Paula Yates. Beneath it she wrote: “Phaedy’s favourite thing is to look at old photos of mama, seriously! So cute x”

She had seemed so blissfully happy in recent years since she gave birth to her two little boys – who clearly were her everything right until the end. Julia White

We also see lots of her dogs, snapshots of her partner Thomas Cohen and many more glimpses into family life – from a display of Easter cards to new outfit selfies, snaps of ice-cream, chocolate and an amusing local newspaper billboard.

These light-hearted images and family snaps are now framed with many hundreds of comments saying “RIP Peaches” as well as lots of chatter about the possible cause of her death.

Speculation abounds online around an image of American singer Elliott Smith posted by Peaches two weeks ago with the words “my kindred spirit”. It is believed Smith killed himself in 2003, aged 34, by stabbing himself in the chest. A coroner recorded an open verdict.

Update: The photos and videos on Peaches Geldof’s Instagram account were removed/made private on Tuesday.

Peaches Geldof. (Getty)

Grief in the age of social media

To many it will seem very odd indeed that tens of thousands of people have clicked “follow” on @peaches_g – a Twitter feed that will never again be updated, at least not by Peaches herself. The account now has more than 262,000 followers compared to 167,000 on Sunday.

But we saw the very same happen following the shock death of Amy Winehouse in 2011 – her Twitter account still exists, in digital memoriam, with the curious final tweet “oinka oikna oinka why you awake”.

Tom Latchem, an entertainment journalist and former TV editor at the News of the World, said: “I heard someone say earlier that there’s no such thing as last words now – it’s last tweets.

However happy she seemed in the digital world, though, there were constantly questions… Julia White

He told Channel 4 News: “We must not forget at the heart of this is a young girl who has died, leaving two young children motherless.

“We’re living in an age where the public and media are obsessed by the private lives of the famous – and many people live their lives vicariously through these celebrities.

“Social media is ubiquitous – everyone’s on it, everyone’s doing it. Is it healthy? Probably not.”

Julia White, head of showbiz and lifestyle at Yahoo, added: “The fact that Peaches’ last tweet referenced her mother Paula Yates – with simply a photo of the two of them – makes it all the more poignant.

“She had seemed so blissfully happy in recent years since she gave birth to her two little boys – who clearly were her everything right until the end.

“However happy she seemed in the digital world, though, there were constantly questions being asked of her health as she stepped out looking painfully thin as recently as last week at the F+F fashion event. RIP Peaches.”