A terror attack takes place.
A large protest breaks out.
A natural disaster occurs.
A prominent public figure dies.
In the earliest minutes, while news networks are scrambling to give the event a name, vernacular users on Instagram offer a flurry of hashtagged tributes with text post prayers, stock photography, and artful homages.
Soon, a primary hashtag and emblem for the event emerges: The yellow umbrella for #OccupyCentral, the Monumen Nasional for #KamiTidakTakut, the Eiffel Tower for #PorteOuverte, silhouettes of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew for #PrayForLKY.
Yet, alongside these consolations are Instagram users who attempt to appropriate the attention current of these trending channels for self-publicity, flooding dedicated hashtags with scarcely relevant selfies, outfit of the day shots, wares for sale, and redirected links.
How do we make sense of this?
It’s been an agonising series of weeks after a string of grievous events in various parts of the world. I have been tracing vernacular responses to global grieving events on Instagram since 2014, and some of the case studies are archived here.
However, of late, global tributes on trending hashtags have been featuring a more prominent disdain for, rejection of, and critique on public grieving in memes and “thoughts & prayers” en masse.
In this post, I trace the various global grieving hashtags on Instagram and mull over the presentation of grief in public digital spaces.