April 24, 2024

Brighton Journal

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News of Princess Kate's cancer treatment sparks remorse among people spreading conspiracies and memes online

News of Princess Kate's cancer treatment sparks remorse among people spreading conspiracies and memes online

For weeks, hundreds of people online spread conspiracy theories, memes and jokes in an attempt to answer one question: Where is Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales?

Kensington Palace has repeatedly said Kate is recovering from planned abdominal surgery in January. However, the official responses, as well as the edited photo posted on the palace's social media channels, have only fueled more baseless rumours.

But many people who took part in the online frenzy found themselves expressing remorse after the princess broke her silence on Friday. In a video message to the public, the 42-year-old wife of Prince William, the future King of Britain, announced that she had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.

Actress Blake Lively was among the first to issue an online statement apologizing for her now-deleted Instagram post, a Photoshop joke inspired by a doctored Mother's Day photo posted by Kensington Palace.

“I'm sure no one cares today but I feel like I have to admit it,” Lively wrote in an Instagram Story. “I wrote a ridiculous post about the craziness of 'Photoshop fails', and oh my god, that post shamed me today. I'm sorry.”

These sentiments dominated many reactions on social media, with users saying they wished they had not made fun of the princess.

“Yes, I definitely feel bad about laughing at all the 'KateGate' memes. Wishing her a speedy recovery.” Saint wrote Trickan influencer who has amassed 3.4 million followers on Instagram, where she posts memes related to current events.

The excitement over Kate's whereabouts — and subsequent online remorse — has highlighted a pattern in which the absence of information provides perfect fodder for creatives chasing relevance on algorithm-driven social media platforms.

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“Everyone is trying to step in and get a piece of the viral pie, so to speak,” said Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama. “When we look at the intersection between conspiracy theories and social media, especially content creators, everyone wants the best opinions, especially when the information is unknown.”

But Maddox said she had never seen such remorse in any online conspiracy culture. Usually when cyber investigators are proven wrong, she said, they redouble their efforts by changing goalposts to further deny new evidence and justify their actions.

Many online said Kate's news also served as a reminder to stop making assumptions about people's personal lives.

It's a sentiment that's cropped up online before, especially when celebrities and public figures are overly scrutinized or become the subject of unsupported claims by their followers.

Some fans of actor Chadwick Boseman expressed similar regrets Commenting on his weight loss When it was revealed after his death that he had been quietly battling colon cancer for years. In April 2023, pop star Ariana Grande spoke out about the matter the The audience “Fears on Her bodySaying, “You never know what someone is going through.”

Kate's news also highlighted the tension between the public's desire to know every detail about the royal family and the royals' desire to keep their health struggles private. The princess's father-in-law, King Charles III, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Charles canceled his public engagements while receiving treatment.

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Reshma Sojani, CEO of the non-profit Girls Who Code, which works to empower young girls and prepare them for STEM careers, said she felt “internet disgusted” when she heard about Kate.

“I am disgusted with the internet and even disgusted with myself for falling into its trap,” Sojani wrote in his letter. Posted on Instagram. “This is a classic example of what we do to women, how when a woman takes the time to prioritize her health and take care of her family, we second-guess ourselves to the point of coming up with conspiracy theories to explain her self-interest.”

With Kate's news now out in the open, Jessica Merrick, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies the psychology of media use, suggests that the online chatter surrounding Kate may be over.

But Merrick doesn't think social media users will stop creating conspiracy theories online in general, despite expressing some remorse over Kate's news.

“There's not a lot of consequences for sharing memes on social media, and if anything, the likes people get, the laughs, the comments… that's probably empowering and will probably mean we'll do it again,” Merrick said.

In her message on Friday, Kate asked people to respect the family's privacy.

“We hope you understand that we as a family now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment,” she said. He added: “My work has always brought me a deep sense of happiness and I look forward to returning when I am able to, but for now I must focus on making a full recovery.”