The Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down over Ukraine has dealt a massive blow to the Dutch people, who lost 193 citizens in the crash.
To show solidarity and commemorate the enormous loss, the Dutch have started changing their social media profile pictures to empty black squares tagged with #BringThemHome, a reference to the fact that the bodies of those lost are on a long, slow journey home from that vacant field in eastern Ukraine.
Across the Netherlands people are taking to social media to share news and updates about exactly when and where the bodies will be returned. Here is one update from Marcel van den Berg, who lives in the Netherlands.
— Marcel van den Berg☁ (@marcelvandenber) July 22, 2014
The blackout social media trend is reported to have started on Facebook when Frans Timmermans, a Dutch Foreign Minister, who was able to capture the sadness of his nation with a moving speech at the UN about the tragedy, changed his avatar to the empty, black square. The movement caught on across Twitter, Instagram and other social media and is being used worldwide as a way to come together and remember the lost.
The hashtag #BringThemHome has already been tweeted more than 12,000 times already and continues to rack up mentions across social media as the world awaits the news that the dead have once again returned home.
— BBC Trending (@BBCtrending) July 21, 2014
— Planesonearth (@Planesonearth) July 21, 2014
— Slaytanica (@MrCaseyHorn) July 22, 2014
Although it might seem like a small thing, the blackout #MH17 #BringThemHome social media movement offers people across the world something, anything they can do to remember and mourn the tragedy. The bodies of the 193 Dutch nationals, for now, are being prepared for transfer to the Netherlands.
Death and grieving brought people together in times of national tragedy long before social media, but since we’ve all started Tweeting and sharing life’s other big moments — babies, graduations, birthdays, new jobs — it’s almost as if social media has become part of our grieving process. Think about how we collectively mourned the death of Steve Jobs on social media, as if he had millions of loved ones.
Now, sadly, the world is coming together once again on social media to make sense of the senseless and tragic loss of those 298 lives — as many as 80 children, according to the plane’s manifest. Now, we all wait until we can #BringThemHome one last time.