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#RIPSRNathan and Young People’s Social Memory On Twitter

At 2204hrs on 22 August 2016, Channel News Asia broke the news of former President of Singapore, Mr SR Nathan’s passing. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) made a formal statement of the death moments later around 2240hrs.

I took to Twitter to observe how young people were responding to the death of Singapore’s sixth and longest-serving president (two terms, 1999-2011). Here are the first one hundred sentiments I curated from young people on Twitter – gauged by their use of internet vernacular, their adoption of parlance popular among young people, and my brief views of their profile pictures and biographical information – collected between 2240hrs and 2320hrs, back-scrolled to the earliest possible Tweets on #RIPSRNathan.

Five categories of emotional reactions 

1) Shock and loss

this is so shocking wow #RIPSRNATHAN

Guys. I feel like a part of me is gone when I heard bout #RIPSRNATHAN 😭

2) Gratitude and respect

#RIPSRNathan no one really said thank you for everything you’ve done for this country. Hope you rest in peace. Thank you, too.

#RIPSRNathan thank you for all that you have done for Singapore

thanks for what you have done for us Mr president #ripsrnathan..

#RIPSRNATHAN my mum told me about ur sacrifices for sg, thank u, take care💫

Remember the times SR Nathan lead his team to fight the hostages during laju ferry hijacking 👍🏻 #RIPSRNATHAN

S R Nathan is one whom i respected greatly. His passing is a loss 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNathan

3) Remembrance and pride

fondly remembered, always respected. rest in peace, the people’s president. #RIPSRNathan

No other president can ever replace you. You will always be the president of Singapore in my heart #RIPSRNathan

ur commitment to serve and better SG will forever be remembered.. Thank you sir. Rest in peace. 😞 #rememberingsrnathan #RIPSRNathan

Proud to have called you my president, ya #RIPSRNathan

4) Grief in internet & young people vernacular


i’m sad now 😪😪😪 #RIPSrNathan

#RIPSRNathan :””'( I am so disheartened

heaven gained a wise angel tonight. #RIPSRNathan

My heart just broke… #RIPSRNathan

5) Allusions to heaven and the afterlife

I think heaven waited way too long for this good man. he was pure at heart. safe travels on your way home. #RIPSRNathan

sad to see you leave, but you’re in a better place called heaven #RIPSRNATHAN #rememberingSRNathan

Thank You Mr Nathan, for everything. Now sleep well. #RIPSrNathan

Eight descriptors of the late former President

1) “Cutest” president

#RIPSRNathan you’re the cutest president I’ve ever seen idk why :’)

The cutest President ;(( thanks for everything you did; charity work, minority representation- a true ambassador. #RIPSRNathan

cutest president ever #ripsrnathan

He’s like the cutest president tbh #RIPSRNATHAN

2) “Favourite” president

Thank you for all your contributions to Singapore. You will always be missed by Singaporeans. RIP my favourite president 😢😢  #RIPSRNathan

He was my favourite and is still my favourite #RIPsrnathan

my favourite president of all time 😢 #RIPSrNathan

omg he’s my fav tbh I’m so sad #RIPSRNATHAN

Thank you for everything you have done for S’pore 😔 We will always remember you as our fav president. #RIPSRNathan

honestly my favourite president. RIP #RIPSRNATHAN

Salutes to mr SR nathan “kawalann kehormatan hormat president senjaaataa!” #RIPSRNATHAN 😞⚓️ my most favourable president and thank you sir.

#RIPSRNATHAN aw he’s my favourite president :-(

was watching suria then saw the headline 😭 eh my fav siahh haiss 😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

3) “Best” president

Rest in peace SR Nathan 😔 you are the best president 👍🏻 #RIPSrNathan

Rest in peace to our ex president aka the best president #RIPSRNathan

Hope u rest in peace. best president. :( #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN the “best president” to our generation, thank you.

hands down SR Nathan is one of the best and the president that i look up to when i was in pri sch #RIPSRNATHAN

The best president i know soo far u will be missed 😔❤️ #RIPSRNATHAN

probably the best president in my generation 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNathan

Wah the best president I could ever ask for :'( #RIPSRNATHAN #rememberingsrnathan

4) “Great” president

A great & well respected man. You’ll be fondly remembered. Rest In Peace, Sir. #ripsrnathan

We have a lost a great leader. #RIPSRNathan

#RIPSrNathan youve been a great former president to all of us singaporean :(

5) “Good” and “Kind” president

He was a kind leader, always taking his time to shake every single hand stretched out to him. Thank you for your service ❤️ #RIPSRNATHAN

dearest sir, you’re a good leader & a really good man. we’ll miss you 😭 thank you for everything :’) #RIPSRNATHAN

6) “Humble” president and “common man” interactions

The reason why people love SR Nathan so much, was he started out as a common man and stayed humble throughout. #ripsrnathan

Felt like he was the most humbled and down to earth president we ever had! #RIPSRNATHAN

Rmbered reading paper wen he mentioned all he wants to do after step down he wanna get half boiled eggs at kopitiam!So humble! #RIPSRNATHAN

Will always be one of the Presidents that smile and acknowledge the nsf for our duty during ndp – #RIPSRNATHAN

I still remember getting a huge teddy bear from you when i was 4 years old#ripsrnathan

Had the honour to be able to meet and perform for him twice during the time he was President. Such a nice and humble person. #RIPSRNATHAN

It was an honour to have performed for and met you, Sir. May you rest in peace. #RIPSRNathan #SRNathan. 🇸🇬

Remember the times we ran into him jogging along ECP while we did our 2.4km runs /: #RIPSRNATHAN

7) “(Grand)Fatherly” and “Role model” president

he was so down to earth and warm and grandfatherly i’m so 😭😭😭 #RIPSRNathan

RIP to the only president I’ll love )-: you always reminded me of my dad now you’re both gone hais ☹️😔💕 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN U will always be my role model no matter what.

You were such a grandfatherly figure 😢 thank you for everything, we will miss you #RIPSRNATHAN

#ripSRNathan . You were my role model when I was young. From watching you to NDP and everything.Thank you for what you’ve done for Singapore

the only person in the govt body i have ever looked up to even when i was a kid 😭 #RIPSRNATHAN 😭

8) “Longest serving” president

#ripsrnathan longest-serving minority president. may u rest well up there 🙏🏽

He served 2 terms as our president, biggest part of my childhood defo 🙁 #RIPSRNathan

Three constructs of young social memories

1) “Only memory” or “First memory” of a President

#RIPSRNathan You were the president I have the most impression of. :(

RT @mw04_ ‘#ripsrnathan gosh the only president we have recollections of. @CalLoveYou’

Rest In Peace to the first president I know.. #RIPSRNATHAN

You’re in a better place now. First president I knew cause when I was young. #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN he was my first memory of singapore leadership in my childhood. this is really heartbreaking news :-( RIP

sometimes i still think he’s still the president, rest in peace. 💐 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN my first president :( you’ve contributed so much to our country and your legacy will live on even after SG100.

2) “Growing up” or “childhoods” with Mr SR Nathan

omg, i grew up with you, i love you, may you rest in peace, s r nathan. ☹️❤️ #ripsrnathan


The president I remember the most while growing up. Honoured to have been under your leadership. Rest in peace sir #RIPSRNathan

Sigh he was the only president I knew growing up. #RIPSRNathan

How I miss seeing him during NDP every year when i was young…. You’ll be missed President Nathan :,( #RIPSRNathan

Sr Nathan was the only president I know of during my childhood😥😥😥😥😭😭😭😭😭 #RIPSRNATHAN

Grew up with him as my President 😢😢#RIPSRNATHAN

Having to grow up seeing the nation under your care till your last breathe, you will always be in our hearts. Thank you😢 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN A great President in my childhood days…

grew up with SR Nathan as our President ever since I was young 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNATHAN

Rest In Peace Mr Nathan :( thank you for being a part of my childhood #RIPSRNathan

nobody can ever replace Mr S R Nathan. thank you for everything, my childhood is the best thanks to you. #ripsrnathan

the best one. the one i grew up knowing. #RIPSRNATHAN

for some reason it feels like I’ve lost a huge part of my childhood. #RIPSRNathan

He was the only president i knew growing up😭😭😭 you will be missed #RIPSRNATHAN

remember him being president during my childhood & he seemed like a really kind man to me, rest in peace 🙏 #RIPSRNATHAN

thank you for all you’ve done for us . you’re literally the best man during my childhood ✨ #RIPSRNATHAN

I remember screaming at the top of my voice as a kid when former President S R Nathan makes his way in for National Day Parade #RIPsrnathan

3) Public portraits and experiences in school

I’ve seen Mr. SR Nathan’s picture in the hall for my whole pri and sec sch everyday 😢 Thank you for everything. RIP, sir. #RIPSRNATHAN

It a bless to have SR Nathan as president during my years of studying 😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

More than just a familiar face hanging on the wall since young #RIPSRNATHAN

SR Nathan is whom we grew up seeing in our schools,offices and everywhere else…A huge legend gone….😔#RIPSRNATHAN

From the day I start studying, I had been looking at his photo in school hall with his wife.😔😔😔😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

You were the portrait i used to see every morning during assembly in the hall 😔 #RIPSRNathan

Used to see his photo in primary school, secondary school, jc etc. #RIPSRNathan

My primary and secondary school time we always saw him now we can never saw him anymore…😔😔😔 #RIPSRNATHAN #salutetoSRNATHAN

Im sad because he’s forever my president. I felt like i pass my secondary school life with him.#RIPSRNATHAN

And some lost sheep

Can’t say I’m totally surprised, but #ripsrnathan

all the gr8 things are taken from us #ripSRNathan #Harambe2016

wait is this true huh #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN. Whose gonna be the next president? So sad.

Undeniably, there is some youth populism and mob virality at work. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to watch young people collectively craft hegemonic modes of remembrance and grief in a space they may call their own… until all the mainstream media coverage and instructive grief takes over in the morning.

over and out,

Beep here.

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