Facebook profile pictures – not an expression of sympathy during tragedy


Photo courtesy of mashable.com

Days after the horrific attack in Paris, my newsfeed flooded with Facebook profile pictures. Many people started to filter their profile photos into red, blue and white bars. Embarrassed, I realized I had remained one of the few heartless people who hadn’t changed their profile picture to sympathize with France yet, and so I quickly converted mine. But, as I clicked to change my profile picture, I felt a tiny wave of guilt that I couldn’t identify at the time.

Taking the time to change your profile picture to support Paris seems to be a kind and well intentioned gesture, but at the same time, the action causes people to overlook the suffering of many others.  Europe’s worst terrorist attack in 11 years killed at least 130 people. It changed the lives of the victims and their loved ones in the worst way, and they deserve to have people all over the world sympathize. But, where was the transparent red, white and green Lebanon flag after the bombing of Beirut? Similarly, Facebook failed to add the option in April for the shooting in Kenya which resulted in 147 deaths.

The people of Paris suffer from an immeasurable grief that should not be undermined. But, the victims of similar attacks in lesser known areas should also be recognized.

In addition, many of the small demonstrations like changing profile pictures to reflect the French flag, prove to be superficial in manner. People thoughtlessly take part in the act just to have others view them as sympathetic online. While intended to be supportive, changing your profile picture to just to jump on the bandwagon of mourning actually belittles the seriousness of the situation.

David Kwon said “It’s definitely just because other people are doing it, while the media is making the biggest deal out of paris being attacked, what people don’t understand is that places like Syria and other smaller places have been attacked too.”

Facebook is useful in bringing encouragement, and comfort to the victims. But many times people participate in the crisis on the website not for that purpose, but to show how sensitive and aware of current events they are.

The participation of millions online in a universal act of support for victims of the Paris attacks is something beautiful. But this action should have been extended to the rest of the victims suffering from similar attacks at the time. Unfortunately, Facebook failed to provide a way for its community to simultaneously support all victims with the French flag profile picture change. Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual. Choosing to click or not click a button online will not determine how good of a person you are. Joining the rest of Facebook in this act is a way to stand with the victims of Paris, but think about whether or not you’re picking up on these social media trends just to mindlessly conform to the actions of others