LONDON – Can you tweet a tear or post a pout?
You can, if the online reaction to Prince William's engagement is any guide. Hours after the thoroughly modern prince announced his engagement to Kate Middleton, some of his female admirers expressed their grief in a thoroughly modern way: They took to Facebook and Twitter to mourn.
Social networking sites have been alight over the news that William, the object of female fascination for years, is now spoken for. Young women worldwide are tweeting and posting to express their sorrow at having missed the chance to catch a prince.
"my prince william is getting married," Eunice Jan Destura mourned on Facebook. "as if adding to injury, (he) gave (Kate) his mother's engagement ring!!! the one i coveted the most"
Destura, a 23-year-old nurse from Pasay City, Philippines, was not alone. Lauren Indvik, assistant editor of social media blog Mashable.com, said that, while most people were either happy or neutral in their posts or tweets, 16 percent reacted badly — and that group included many depressed women.
Heartbreak was one several emotions that flooded the web, according to Mark Ghuneim, whose New York-based software company Trendrr produced the data.
Among those heartbroken and logged on was Kristin Kellner, 27, a marketing assistant from Princeton, New Jersey, who tweeted: "Even though Prince William is taken and my childhood dream of being a princess is crushed - i still LOVE his accent!"
Kellner said later told The Associated Press that she realized the feeling was superficial.
"I never stood a chance in reality," she acknowledged. "But it was fun to dream about being a princess."
Sociologists say the outpouring of affection, congratulations and heartbreak online sheds light on something larger: Social media now provides the well-wishers and the crestfallen alike a platform to share how they feel about royal events.
That's relatively new, University of York Lecturer in Sociology David Beer said, because in the past the queen's subjects might have viewed her and her family with more awe — and distance.
"It's a technological development and a cultural shift," Beer said.
Beer said social media, beyond allowing people to react to the news, fosters a closer relationship between celebrity and commoner. "It gives the sense that the distance between the royal family and their people is eroded," he said.
Ghuneim said that, with William gone, many followers have already settled on another option.
"Many did realize Harry is still out there and find some small solace in that," he said.
"Sure," said Kellner, as hopeful as ever. "Harry is just as cute as William!"