Submarine missing from Titanic wreckage and why we can’t look the other way
Everyone is on the lookout for updates on the fate of five passengers aboard a missing submersible that was exploring the Titanic wreck site. The story is hitting the front pages of news sites and taking over the TikTok feeds. For example, the hashtag #submersible has more than 118 million views.
But why exactly do we care so much? Much like our fascination with the sinking of the Titanic, no one can look away from a wild, cinematic story, even if it involves tragedy.
“At its core, the missing submersible Titanic contains all the essential elements of an addictive, alluring media spectacle,” said Melvin Williams, Associate Professor of Communications and Media Studies at Pace University.
The missing submersible sparks “most people’s greatest fear”.
The story reads like the plot of a movie. Less oxygen hours that will be used up by Thursday. Wealthy passengers who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the trip of a lifetime. Several countries are supporting a search operation over the hours.
“The idea of running out of time is the biggest fear most people have,” says Amy Morin, psychotherapist and host of the Mentally Stronger podcast. “A lot of people imagine what it would be like to be on the submarine and know that if you don’t get rescued you have less than 24 hours of oxygen. We’re also fascinated by adventurers and the risks they take in life.”
But being intrigued doesn’t always mean signing up. “People who don’t like to take risks see it as proof that they shouldn’t do anything dangerous,” adds Morin.
The Titanic connection
We all know the story of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage in 1912: The Unsinkability. The Iceberg. The too few lifeboats. It has fascinated the world for more than 100 years.
For many, this incident is likely to spark a desire to read (and re-read and watch) all about Titanic history. “The name of the tourist submarine immediately conjures up nostalgia for the ill-fated voyage of the RMS Titanic and the subsequent blockbuster 1997 film ‘Titanic,'” says Williams.
You think: what would you do? “People want to know how some people survived and what it was like to be in that situation where the ship was sinking and decisions were being made about how to get on a lifeboat,” says Morin. “We often wonder what we would do in a similar situation.”
And all this long before the age of social media. “The live coverage of this tragedy is sparking a pop culture moment that, regardless of the outcome, will transform news and commentary on social media, documentaries, fictional and non-fictional film and television programming, and the public’s enthusiasm for the rescue efforts of Titanic-U -Boots,” adds Williams.
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“Feelings are contagious”
At this time we do not know if these people will make it out alive.
“The only thing that so many of us have to deal with is the hope and the inevitability that something will happen to us one day,” said David Kessler, grief expert and founder of Grief.com. “It’s a small microcosm of everything I deal with in end of life care and grief that there is a moment when optimism eventually turns to denial. And none of us knows when that moment is.”
Until we know for sure, hope is a strong, poignant feeling.
“We love stories where people somehow manage to beat all the odds,” says Morin. “Any story that evokes such strong emotions as sadness and fear will likely make us want to keep reading. It gives us the opportunity to feel these emotions from a safe distance. We’re not actually at the sub and most of us aren’t.” “I don’t know anyone who is, but it gives us a chance to imagine from a safe distance what it must be like to be there.”
However, fear preoccupies people more than anything else. “Readers can share articles about the submarine with friends or family so they can talk to someone about the sadness, anxiety and fear the articles are fueling,” adds Morin. “Feelings are contagious, and sometimes we want other people to share our uncomfortable feelings.”
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