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.
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