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After being missing in action for 10 days, Putin emerges back into the public eye by saying, “Life would be boring without gossip” when asked about where he had been. Putin’s disappearance shook the internet, especially Twitter. Some believed he was the victim of a political coupe. Some thought he had fallen ill. Others speculated that he flew to Switzerland to witness the birth of his love child with his secret lover. While I do not know if any of these claims holds any truth at all, Putin’s disappearance and the social media frenzy in those 10 days made me think about how much our real life, aka, reality, is intertwined with the online world. If you visited a cool cafe and didn’t take pictures of the delicious meal you had and posted it on social media, did it really happen? If you climbed the great wall of China but did not share your pictures on Facebook, were you really there? Sounds ridiculous enough, right?

Well, that is how I feel about Putin’s so called “disappearance.” Just because Putin was not seen publicly does not mean he fell off the face of the earth. Understandably, he is the President of Russia so he’s presence is more significant than your average Joe. It’s very interesting to analyze how Putin has affected online discourse, especially in Russia. The discussion surrounding his disappearance was fueled by the fact that he is a bigger than life personality in Russia. I’ve seen pictures online that show Putin slaughtering wild animals in nature settings. Obviously, it’s not just the role of social media that amplified the situation, but that there was also a political undertone in the situation for the citizens of Russia and the rest of the world.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Thierry Ehrmann

Left over from the Putin’s disappearing act are digital media evidences describing the moment of confusion and anxiety. One of the leading hashtag on Twitter for his disappearance was #PutinIsDead. BCC News took on the project of compiling a list of the best memes to embody the occasion. Most of these hashtags and memes are somewhat humorous, and even sarcastic but I think the online creations reflect a greater anxiety in the Russian society for their missing President.

To this day, we still don’t know what Putin was doing. Does it really matter though? I don’t think so. But the magnitude in which the event pervaded social media is interesting. This event has led me to think about the importance of social media in our days to keep up with news. Social Media, like Twitter, allows news to travel instantaneously. I think it also changes the kind of news (form, structure) we receive. The speed of the internet and social media intersects our private life, making things that are not so significant, significant. In the days before the internet, Putin might have already reemerged from his disappearance before news even got around, so it might not have received worldwide awareness. This is why I think the news of Putin disappearing for 10 days can only be “news” in our day and age. Our society so interconnected with the online world that something such as simply living life in privacy seem unjustifiable.

Feature image courtesy of Flickr user Bilal Kamoon

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One thought on “Putin’s disappearance and how the online world reacted

  1. I like how you took on the opinion of how social media has shaped Putin and other politicians in society. I am currently taking culture and contexts of Russia and this was very interesting to learn about modern times of Russia rather than the past. I think this statement describes the article perfectly, “Putin’s so called “disappearance.” Just because Putin was not seen publicly does not mean he fell off the face of the earth.” It created anxiety in Russia that didn’t need to happen and it makes one think how presidencies were before social media. Social media really does effect a campaign today ominously and how one is preserved in the public eye.

    This article also made me think of our discussion we had in class about the KONY campaign and how important it was for celebrities and politicians to be involved. The film maker Jason Russell stated, “Celebrities, athletes and billionaires have a loud voice and what they talk about spreads instantly,” in this website: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/gossip/2012/03/kony-2012-which-20-celebrities-were-targeted.html. It could have never exploded as big as it did globally without the presence of those individuals who promoted the cause. Celeb tweet awareness not only helped this campaign but has helped many others because it has made it look more legitimate. People don’t think something is legit until Justin Bieber or Barack Obama will tweet or support it in our society today. It is the same for this disappearance because individuals are so dependent on seeing our leaders present in the media.

    There is a new wave of social media politicians and has become the top source for our political news today. This article I found has many interesting statistics about how politicians use social media and especially through Facebook. Also it explored how consistent liberals use Twitter more than republicans which I thought was very intriguing. I thought it could be because This is the link: http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/section-2-social-media-political-news-and-ideology/ It is just stated that we can’t function today without seeing political news in the media because that is where we get all of our information now.

    Social media sites like Twitter enable users to engage in the spread of contagious phenomena from information and rumors to social movements. Such as in the article stated above people posted the hashtag #PutinIsDead and how quickly it spread into memes. In particular, Twitter has been observed to function as a platform for political discourse, allowing political movements to spread their message and engage supporters, and also as a platform for information diffusion, allowing everyone from mass media to citizens to reach a wide audience with a critical piece of news.

    So the question is should we believe everything we see on social media about our political leaders? I don’t think so in the slightest because most of the times it is just rumors. It is sad how our society today can become so involved in a hashtag or a fake story than actually doing research on the topic. We have just become focused on what pops up first and not thinking twice on what the conveying message really is.

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