A few weeks ago the footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed due to a cardiac arrest during a Bolton Wanderers football match. This event was naturally big news, but the wave of apparent support, solidarity and well wishes that followed was unprecedented. Now, firstly there's an entirely separate article yet to write about a society which considers itself secular spreading the power of prayer via Twitter. That's going to be a rather more positive article, because this one isn't.
The weekend just past, Liverpool FC fans have been remembering Hilsborough, though there's been a bit of controversy there too. The Hilsborough disaster was obviously even more alarming than Muamba's heart attack, with 96 fans dieing in a severe crowd control incident. Like any such disaster it has been rightly remembered ever since. But there is a difference between respectful rememberance and a desire for selfish inclusion.
Observing a minute's silence is respectful. Wishing death upon someone who disagrees with a team refusing to play a football match is despicable. Being aware of, and even including in prayer, a footballer in hospital is respectful. Flooding social networks with ever more overblown superlatives about just how anxious and distraught you are seems a little insincere. I have no problem with people being upset or supportive; however the feelings and support of those who genuinely have them are belittled by clamouring masses eager to be seen as part of something.
What I'm making there is obviously a sweeping statement. Just look at the facts though; when millions of people take to social networks with the latest hashtag of mourning, how many of them flick over to YouTube straight after to watch "world's most deadly car crashes", or how many swipe to the next app on their phone and draw a picture of a camel for their friend to guess. The minute's silence favoured by many large scale rememberance events gives you a full minute to reflect on things, but, November 11th aside, how many people spend the minute wondering whether the guy next to them bought his shoes from Primark?
Of course the second level of this problem is perfectly framed by what happened to Alan Davies. After a remark which, to all intents and purposes seemed reasonable (other football clubs play on the anniversay of tragedies, why shouldn't Liverpool) he was subjected to huge levels of hatred, abuse and public defamation. In other words these massed groups of tearful mourners are quite happy to sully the memories of those who actually died by slinging insults in their name. The idea that the more aggressively you defend something the more you care is usually used to defend a savage dog, not a YouTube commenter. The reality is that these people don't care; they want to feel a part of something and just like the mental images it raises, the mob mentality can sometimes be a bit vicious.
This emotional bandwagon isn't just restricted to pale reflections of sad events though. A month ago a charity called Invisible Children released their astonishingly succesful video as part of their campaign to sell t-shirts bring someone to justice and the internet went mad for it. This tugged on those heart strings and with minimal effort you could give to the chairty or put a scary man's face in your window in case he happens to be selling door-to-door or something. It's cynical to suggest that the people behind this campaign were in it for their own ends, so I'll leave that part out. What it did indicate again was that people are all too happy to jump the emotional bandwagon, tweet, shout and then go stalk their ex on Facebook. With the speed it was shared you'd think the whole internet was well informed and out for justice, but do just a little research and you'd have found what soon became the cornerstone of the official backlash - that the man everyone was after probably wasn't even in the country they said he was in, that the current government are also corrupt and that sending them weapons was, astonishingly, a really bad idea. A friend of mine termed this slacktivism and I like that and will continue to use it and pretend I came up with it.
I could ruffle through millions of tweets, shared items on Facebook, old emails about bonsai kittens etc. to show the twinned worlds of emotional bandwagons and those all too ready to prey on the gullible with scams and hoaxes. Even without the extra risk of getting scammed, even without the second level violent mob mentality I feel it's a bad thing for people to be joining in with these emotional outpourings. As mentioned it belittles the feelings of those who actually care, but even more it puts you in a boy who cried wolf situation in your own life; we all have our own things to care and get upset about, and trying to push them aside in favour of the latest group tragedy is, well; tragic.