When I woke up on Wednesday morning it was to the news that Donald Trump was the next President of the United States, and, at the top of my Instagram feed, to a photograph of a pair of shiny silver ballet pumps. ‘Wearing sparkly shoes to make today just a teeny bit better,’ was the caption.
I scrolled down through other photographs in my usual mindless morning way. A greyhound, already the most doleful looking of dogs, in her basket and the caption: ‘Thank God she neither knows nor understands. I envy her peace’. A toddler, still in his pyjamas, tousled, sleepy, fawn-in-the-headlights eyes: ‘What kind of world will he grow up in?’. A single candle, a mug of tea, a slice of buttered toast: ‘I need the calm in this picture today’. An embroidered quilt: ‘Just no. Can’t even get out of bed. So sad’. There were many, many images of a single black square – much posted the day after the Brexit vote – and variations on the theme of: ‘The second one of 2016. Dark days’.
All these images fall into a subset of online virtue signalling. It is sad signalling, Insta-grief, sepia-tinted lamentation. My liberal heart is more broken than yours. #Literallycrying.
The other meme being posted and reposted on Instagram was a mocked up campaign poster: Michelle 2020. Premature, perhaps, a day after America had shown itself reluctant to elect former First Ladies. And what then? Melania 2024? The constitution would have to be changed to allow a Slovenian to stand, but Donald could to it. Chelsea 2028? Ivanka 2032? Malia 2036? And on and on, merry-go-rounding through political dynasties, with the odd Bush thrown in, until kingdom come.
Some of my Instagram feed was taken up by photos of Hillary and with captions like: ‘I don’t want to imagine a world without her’ with weepy emojis.
While I am anxious about Trump, and would, had I had a vote, have cast it for Hillary, my reaction to the election of President Trump isn’t sadness. Surprised? Yes. Wrong-footed? Yes. Agog, aghast? Yes. Curious about what he’ll do next? Yes. He is appallingly fascinating and fascinatingly appalling. But, sad? No.
Emote into your turmeric latte if you must, but when Trump does start building a wall against Mexico or bolsters his Putin bromance, we’re going to need a hell of a lot more in our diplomatic arsenal than your sad, sparkly slippers.