Andrew Wicks

When faced with tragedy, social media shares its happy snaps

In the wake of the two recent tragedies, I’ve noticed something. When faced with unspeakable horror, social media tends to dust off the holiday snaps – and I think I know why.

 

 

In 2019, I suppose the lesson is that we hold life precious and we keep moments of international crisis close to our hearts. Or more accurately, we keep our own experiences of the venue of said crisis handy, a valuable thing to cling to, after to some evil befalling it. Last week, the legendary Notre Dame caught fire, a match that lit both a pile of misdirected charitable donations and the fire of postcard anecdote, as we all gathered to honour the Cathedral by sharing our wishes that we were still on that holiday in 2008, and wondering how it could already be a decade since you were there.

But I get it, no-one died, and the church didn’t burn all the way down, so what’s the big whoop?

Well, sadly, last week bled into yesterday, giving us the hideous spectacle of almost three hundred dead on Easter Sunday, a pale fact smeared over the vibrant canvas of Sri Lanka. As it often goes, undefinable horror begets unspeakable nonsense, as many around the world have rallied under the #prayforSriLanka hashtag on Instagram…to talk about themselves.

 

 

 

Now, I’m not keen on particularly bashing these particular people, but they are victims of their own awfulness and Instagram’s algorithm. They were the first I found. So why do we tend to approach tragedy by the medium of rehashing tepid anecdote?

Aristotle believes the social idea of the tragedy  “was an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude…through pity and fear affecting the proper catharsis of these emotions.”

In the days of the big Aristotle, dramatists had to submit their work to the censor for approval, otherwise, the play could not go ahead. It needed a level of examination by an unrelated body, something that was there to check off the piece against the arbitrary conditions they set. The content wasn’t as important as the hoops they were required to jump through. It was later derided as nonsense. Now, we are no longer playwrights, but we love drama all the same, and the many stages we stand on are the social media platforms that embolden our performance. The conditions we meet are much the same. If Instagram is cool with it, we’re fine to post it.

While we don’t want to add ourselves to the pile, we do want to be recognised for our proximity to it. It may be filtered endlessly through Instagram, but the obvious fact is there. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we’ve lost touch of it. It’s why we reference the theatre of evil with ourselves, literally planting us in the foreground of the now-cursed image. While we weren’t there at the time, or we certainly don’t understand why a thousand years of history caught fire, or why 23,000 years worth of experience was ended by the application of explosive hate; we were there, and we do understand. It was a lovely place. As Fredrik Backman once said, “…everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.”

Clearly, the age of social media’s snarlingest apex predator is the dopamine addict, and to use Backman’s words, clearly, we one thing we’re looking for bumps in our traffic, or across the skin of our arm. Clearly, the openness of social media allows us to be ever closer to these events, but it also gives us the choice to distance ourselves from it. We can step in, and step away from a safe distance. Meaningful change is possible, but not needed. We have hashtags to bind us, and celebratory funereal profile pictures to sate us. We don’t care about these people, or that church, really, we care about us, and indeed, the finite nature of existence, and how we will be remembered. The death of those people in Sri Lanka and the burning of Notre Dame is about the same thing. The loss of memory. The places are not the places we visited, nor are we the same people who visited them. If a church from a book/movie from our collective childhood can burn down, who is going to remember us? Who will note our passing, who will boost our post-mortem hashtag?

Pray for (a sale and my leave to be approved so I can go back to) Sri Lanka, indeed.

 

 

 

 

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Life can be as precarious and tragic as walking on railways when the unexpected and undeserved happens. My heart aches as we woke at the horrifying news from #SriLanka 💔 My thoughts are with this beautiful country and its kind people at such a dark time, taking an opportunity to renew my wish for a better and safer world: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu ~ May All Beings Be Happy and Free ❤ #PrayForSriLanka 🙏 . . . . 📸 #tb Sri Lanka #breakingnews #srilankan #supportsrilanka #srilankanews #colombo #negombo #travelsrilanka #love #peace #mantra #namaste #compassion #support #yoga #travelingyogi #travelingyogini #travelphotography #globetrotter #yogalife #yogalifestyle #yogaliving #yogamotivation #yogamind #yogalove #lokahsamastahsukhinobhavantu

A post shared by GIULIACROYOGA (@giuliacroyoga) on

 

 

 

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Things end but memories last forever🌴🖤#mirissa#mirissasrilanka#coconuttreehill#prayforsrilanka

A post shared by Sarah Schüpfer📍München (@itssarah_s) on

 

Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks is a country boy with a penchant for movies and sport. After a few years working in health, he decided he'd rather work with today's youth and studied arts and education in rural NSW. His main interests are religion, health and lairy shirts.

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