Eight Year Gap: Similarities and Differences in Memorial/Grief Pages

After reading the two articles for Wednesday’s class, I was immediately reminded of an incident that I followed closely this past summer. On July 18, 2018 Mollie Tibbetts went missing from her small town in Iowa after she was last seen on a run. From the time I saw the news notification about her disappearance until the day that her body was found on August 21st, I was constantly checking the news and the facebook page created to help find Mollie for updates.

After reading about the Chelsea King incident in Whitney Phillip’s article, LOLing at Tragedy, I began to notice both differences and similarities in their incidents. They were both young women who disappeared on a run and were unfortunately not found until they were already dead. Both young women also had Facebook pages made for them to help authorities, friends, and family help find them after their disappearances.

As we can see the basic facts remain similar, however, the specific use of facebook for each case differs vastly because of the eight year gap of their disappearances. As explained in the article, Chelsea King’s online presence after her death was extremely problematic as the emergence of “Facebook Trolls” arose. These incidents were insensitive towards her family and those who cared about her, even if they were just intended to be light hearted like the “I Bet This Pickle Can Get More Fans than Chelsea King” page.

Eight Years later, Mollie’s internet presence was much more dignified with a lack of “Facebook Trolls” exploiting her death for funny or demeaning comments. However, her death was exploited instead by politicians. When it was discovered that Mollie’s killer is an undocumented immigrant, politicians such as President Trump began to use her death as a platform to advance their anti-immigration platform. Mollie’s father was outraged and publicly shamed the politicians for using his daughter’s death for their political agenda.

Therefore, I believe that facebook trolls are not as prevalent on online memorial/remembrance pages as they were eight years ago around the time of Chelsea King. Instead, I think that the “trolling” has moved into politics and current events where people are using tragic deaths to advance their own personal motives and agendas.

Additionally, I also think that it is interesting to compare celebrities and non-celebrities memorial/grief pages. Megan Garber’s article illuminates what occurred online when David Bowie died, however, I think it would be interesting to do a direct comparison of how people react to a celebrity and a non-celebrity death online.

2 Replies

  • While I’m not sure to what extent facebook memorial trolling has declined (I’m inclined to think it’s still going on), it is interesting to note the ‘evolution’ of trolling, as you mentioned. It seems like in the past few years, trolling has become way more openly oppositional, if that makes sense. Instead of posting images and text for shock value, trolls now post things that make them stand out as politically or culturally contrarian. For example, the Alt-Right makes heavy use of troll-tactics. On Twitter, bots are created to spread pro-Trump propoganda, or trolls interacting with others may call people “cuckservatives” or say they need to be “red-pilled”.

    The medium(s) trolls use have also developed over the past few years, and it’s interesting to see just how much digitally technical it can be. The aforementioned Twitter bots are one example. Additionally, when media critic Anita Sarkeesian started making videos about female representation in video games, trolls created an entire video game called “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian”. With tech becoming increasingly advanced (and accesible), I wonder what new kinds of “trolls” are on the horizon. Could there be A.I. trolls in the near future?

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