Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Ronnie Bankston


Mental illness--Public opinion; Williams, Robin, 1951-2014--Public opinion; Social media; Celebrities in popular culture; Death in popular culture;


The purpose of my thesis is to examine how people use social media, in this case Twitter, to share content that reflects their attitudes toward the loss of a celebrity and the issue of mental illness. To complete my research, I examined how users of Twitter created content expressing their reactions to the sudden passing of comedian and actor Robin Williams on August 11, 2014. Williams’ death raised mental illness issues that he had faced during his life. After analyzing the data I created a short survey with eight tweets that referred to mental illness. The survey was administered to a group of my peers so that I could better understand how they perceived the remarks.

As a member of To Write Love on Her Arms – UNI, a student organization with focus on spreading awareness about mental illness, this is an issue of great importance to me. In today’s society, I feel that those with mental illness are judged without reason, and I hope that the future brings acceptance for those who struggle. Also, I have noticed that people begin to pay attention to an issue once it impacts individuals highlighted in our celebrity culture. I have also noticed social media’s prominent role in all aspects of our daily living; for example, many people used their social media platforms to express their grief towards the loss or Robin Williams.

Year of Submission



Department of Communication Studies

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (46 pages)