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The Media Obsession of the OceanGate Submersible

During the mid-year break, it was impossible to avoid hearing about the missing OceanGate submarine that had failed to safely voyage to the Titanic wreckage. Media attention was at an all time high, as was the sharing of brutal memes. Eva Anido asks - were we really focusing on this story for the right reasons?


5 people stuck in a metal case the size of a minivan with no room to stand, engulfed in some of the deepest parts of the ocean, slowly running out of air. It sounds like a nightmare. However for Stockton Rush, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, this was perhaps their reality. [1] 


On Sunday the 18th of June 2023, the OceanGate Submersible was dropped into the North Atlantic Ocean to begin their expedition to the wreckage of the Titanic. 45 minutes later, their connection to their team on land was lost. The media frenzy that followed this story appeared somewhat excessive. News articles and programs from around the world began reporting on the missing submersible. They reported on the details of the case and those involved even going as far as counting down the hours of air that were left inside the sub. [2] 


But why were so many people and news outlets so consumed with this news story? Psychologist Chloe Carmichael, believes that there may be a psychological reason for this widespread obsession. In general, the story is quite horrific. The details of the case caused a general level of stress and anxiety to the public, which may have led to a fascination fueled by empathy. [3] 



On the other hand, you have many people meme-ing the incident. Users from online platforms like TikTok and Reddit have been using the disappearance of this sub to poke fun at the wealthy people on board. These same users have been considered to be using this incident to push the ‘Eat the Rich’ movement. This reaction to the incident may be because some people find it genuinely funny, with many users making videos to the effect of “I may be poor but at least I have unlimited oxygen”. So is it dark humour? Or just disrespectful? [4] Comparatively, research done by Penn University shows that memes and online content in many circumstances are used to deal with stress and anxiety. With this in mind, users may be posting and consuming these memes to further cope with this tragedy. [5] 


The OceanGate submersible was never discovered intact. Some debris was found after the time limit of oxygen ran out that had been confirmed as remnants of the vessel. [6] After such a whirlwind media storm surrounding this one missing vessel, it makes you wonder why the same attention is not given to the many missing boats and asylum seeking families that are lost at sea every year. If the media had given a small percentage of coverage on these issues we may have been able to instigate real change within Australia and the world with how we treat and help those seeking refuge from war torn countries. There are around 1 million people currently considered to be refugees, displaced and seeking asylum. Here’s how YOU can help them. [7] 


1) Donate! You can donate money, canned goods and clothing to those in need through many different avenues (trusted charities have been linked at the end of this article).

2) Advocate! There are a few Australian companies like the ARC (Australian Refugee Council) that actively advocate and engage in refugee and asylum seeker issues. By signing up to their mailing list, you can be up to date in their events and campaigns (the link to sign up will be linked at the end of this article).

3) Volunteer! You can volunteer through programs like the Red Cross’ migration support program. This is a great way to get involved and really make a difference as an individual (sign up as a volunteer through the link at the end of this article).


Links! 

Advocate through the ARC: 

Volunteer with the Red Cross: 




 

[1] Hurley, Bevan. “Missing Titanic submarine: Timeline of how the deep-sea tragedy unfolded”. Independent, 1 Jul. 2023, 


[2] n 1. 


[3] Aloian, Addison. “Here's Why Everyone Is So Fascinated With The Missing Submersible Tragedy, Per A Psychologist”. Women's Health, 23 Jun. 2023, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a44304681/missing-submersible-tragedy-anxiet y-expert-explains/ 


[4] Hamedy, Saba. “Search for Titanic submersible unleashes ‘eat the rich’ sentiment online”. NBC, 23 Jun. 2023,


[5] McVerry, Jonathan. “Viewing memes online increases positive emotions, helps cope with pandemic”. PennState, 18 Oct. 2021, 


[6] n 1. 


[7] “10 ways you can help refugees”. Save The Children, 27 May 2022, https://www.savethechildren.org.au/our-stories/10-ways-to-help-refugees 


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