Group Chats Quickly Became A Vital Outlet For People Mourning Ruth Bader Ginsburg
"I just typed fuccccckkkkkk like 3 times," Caroline Newberry said.
Just minutes after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death was announced, cellphones began to beep continuously not just with news alerts about the death of the iconic Supreme Court justice, but group chats mourning in unison.
"I just typed fuccccckkkkkk like 3 times," Caroline Newberry told BuzzFeed News about what she'd written to one of her group chats. "RBG she fucking died."
Her friend's wife began to cry. Newberry headed to the store to buy beer.
For many, the group chats were a way to handle the grief that accompanied news of the death of a champion of gender equality, and what many expected to become yet another hot political point with a contentious presidential election just weeks away.
Many of those group chats seemed to have the same reaction to the news.
"Shock mixed with sorrow, expressed most commonly by f-bombs," Jennifer Weaver, mayor of Hillsborough, North Carolina, told BuzzFeed News. "Accompanied by the general love and awe for her and her life."
The news also came as the US continues to endure a pandemic, grapples with the ramifications of protests in response to police brutality against Black people, and is awaiting the contentious presidential election.
For many people, the group chats have been one of their remaining links to friends and family during a year filled with hardship.
"It sounds like a collective scream," one Twitter user commented about the group chats blowing up.
For others, news of Ginsburg's death was followed immediately with uncertainty and what laid ahead.
President Donald Trump nominating a candidate for Ginsburg's seat would change the Supreme Court for years, and some people immediately began to wonder about the changes it could mean for issues like reproductive rights.
In one of her group chats, Carina Coestad said her friends started wondering if they should change their birth control.
"I felt a super huge pit in my stomach," Coestad, who is a junior in college, told BuzzFeed News. "2020 has been awful, but this was definitely some of the most upsetting news of the year."
For her and her friends, Ginsburg's death dealt another blow in a year that's already been filled with uncertainty.
"Everything feels really scary," she said.
Leigh Kunkel told BuzzFeed News she found out about Ginsburg's death when she returned home from a run and her boyfriend told her the news. She checked her phone and, sure enough, the number of notifications she received had exploded.
But instead of turning to Facebook or Twitter to join the discourse about Ginsburg's death, Kunkel leaned on her group chats.
"In a weird way, I felt grateful that so many people I love also know how devastating of a moment this is for women in particular," she said. "Most of my chats involved at least a couple of guys who were equally devastated."
Her group chats quickly filled up with a reaction that seemed to have repeated itself in group texts across the country.
"Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck," read one of the messages on her phone.
Ginsburg's impact on women's rights, in particular, made her death a gut punch, and something that instead made her turn toward her friends and family, and others who she knew would also be affected by her death.
It felt heavier and more important than just politics.
"RBG came to represent more than her position to a lot of people," Kunkel said. "And there were people that I thought must be hurting too, and I wanted to know that they were OK."
But the chats also became places to honor Ginsburg's life and accomplishments — and one another's.
Weaver said her group chat, which is usually filled with conversations about kids, spouses, politics, Lizzo, and random jokes, turned into a celebration of the justice's life.
Newberry said it also turned into a celebration for her friends as well.
"Now all the groups are talking about how it's time to be kind and be here for each other," she said. "It was a very precious, proper reaction from my friends to reach out like this. Warmed my heart for a whole second."