Excerpt from this article:
The urge to solidarity is a very powerful one. It’s why humans are such a successful species. But at some point the genuine if emotional gesture can teeter over into something else altogether. It becomes another version of exhibitionism. It stops being motivated by an outward-looking desire to demonstrate collective resistance and slides into the self-absorbed projection of the individual into whatever event of the day is shocking or enthralling.
Since that is largely what Twitter and other social media is for, maybe it’s self-defeating to rue the rise of hashtag engagement. There is something beguiling for those of us fortunate enough to be a safe distance from tragedy or disaster in sending out virtuous signals of sympathy and right-thinkingness from the warmth and comfort of kitchen or office. It’s not so far from the emotion that causes queues to build up on the opposite carriageway to some episode of motorway carnage. It’s a kind of vicarious, cost-free involvement. But that is all it is.
Now that it is so easy to do, public sympathy is becoming a corrupted currency. Politicians, terrified of being behind the social media curve, are always at it. Memorialising individual soldiers killed in conflict as happened throughout the last decade may be justifiable (a Blair innovation in the aftermath of Iraq): they were there at the politicians’ behest. But nowadays any disaster that is reported, regardless of how lacking in any but the most personal consequences – terrible though they must be for the families concerned – is treated as a matter for public expressions of sympathy by government and opposition MPs alike.