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Tiktok and the emergence of ‘Sympathy Porn’ – Is dignity in grief outdated?

There’s something very distasteful about all this

This writer is yet to create a Tiktok account – and with the help of God – hopefully never will. 

As many social media users are surely aware much of the slurry from Tiktok manages to spill over onto other platforms such as the slightly less trashy Instagram, of which I am a somewhat reluctant afficionado. 

Have you ever looked up from your phone only to realise that 45mins have passed and all you’ve done is watch instagram reels of bichon frisés wearing dungarees, techno pharmacy signs, or Japanese snow monkeys whacking people in the head with paddles? I have…

While all of that is arguably a waste of time it’s relatively innocent compared to what my editor this morning referred to as ‘sympathy porn’. 

I’ve taken the liberty to leave an example below.

 

 

Here we see the widow of a man who was shot dead performing a dance while subtitles appear on screen featuring details of how her husband died and the subsequent trial where a man was convicted of his manslaughter. 

I can’t help but think there’s something quite unsettling about combining details of a tragic death with a corny dance – unless of course it’s your own death which, for reasons that need no explanation, is very highly unlikely, nay impossible. 

Jokes aside, I am reminded of the extremely inappropriate dance routines that were uploaded to social media by some hospital staff and Gardai during the pandemic. 

It might just be a tragic personal lack of rhythm, but in my experience it takes at least hours to practise a dance routine until filming can start: hours that people who work in busy hospitals for example just don’t have – especially during a pandemic. 

Here we see a woman performing an energetic dance in order to raise awareness of her sick baby’s plight – I think? 

While asking for prayers for a sick baby is completely understandable, doing so accompanied by a dance with a big smile on your face just feels wrong

 

 

Many social media users seem to feel the need to vent their sadness by making posts about personal misfortune, but why does a virtual like from someone you may not even know hold such value? 

I remember hearing a psychologist saying that human beings have a deep need to feel seen and heard. It would seem the tools provided by social media platforms which allow us to broadcast our lives – literally – have really tapped into these needs in an increasingly toxic way. 

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