The Paris Attacks: Humanity and Hashtags

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The attacks in Paris on Friday 13 November were undeniably horrific.

Almost instantaneously, pictures started circling around Facebook and Instagram of Eiffel Tower peace signs and #tbt photos of past Paris trips. The hashtag #prayforparis was prevalent in captions.

Snapchat introduced a live story and made a filter. Facebook released a filter for profile pictures of the French flag, just as they did when gay marriage was legalized in all 50 US States.

No doubt those posting do feel for the Parisians and those located in Paris and are only attempting to pay their respects the best they can. Yet, it has all begun to seem like somewhat of a novelty; as if people’s responses to hearing that a tragedy has hit is, “better show my caring humanitarian side and post a quick pic on social media.”

I don’t want to be a hypocrite; I myself have shared a photo expressing my condolences to people I have no relation to, back in April 2015 when the Bali Nine Duo was executed. I dare say that was, however, a slightly different type of situation, more to do with breaches of human rights (not so say human rights were not violated in the recent Paris attacks).

As soon as these terrible acts directly affect a western country, we all seem to hop on the social media bandwagon, sharing our deepest condolences (not to say these aren’t genuine).

Social media is all about relevance. It can be updated at the click of a button. Why post about the average 5,000 civilians killed monthly in Syria? Excuse my lack of creativity – I know, you’ve heard it plenty of times. It’s a daily occurrence. And that is the point – no use for a new hashtag or filter there. 

This has always been the way with the news; new events happen, ‘old’ issues get overshadowed. Yet with the current prevalence of social media sites, it has completely accentuated the extent to which we grasp onto tragedies that are unusual, neglecting to acknowledge those that happen daily.

Then again, among other things, there were suicide bombings in Lebanon on the 12th November, just a day before the attacks in Paris. Yet, call it ignorance, I had not heard about this until it was compared with those in Paris. What makes the Paris attacks so much more worthy of our attention than events such as the Lebanon suicide bombings?

Those affected in Paris do indeed need our condolences, our best wishes, and, for those of you who do pray, our prayers.

So do those in dire situations everywhere else.

On the other hand, these attacks have also sparked images with the hashtag #prayfortheworld. Perhaps it seems cliché, yet it is an acknowledgement that Paris is not the only place where crimes against humanity have taken and are taking place. Fingers crossed this will spark an increase of awareness of all of the injustices that take place daily.

There is nothing wrong in using social media as a tool to express sympathies, yet you have to wonder – does this somewhat diminish the depth of our involvement in the situation? How can the quick click of a button really encompass the thought we ought to be extending? But what else can?

Maybe it is best to simply hop on the bandwagon, post a picture with the accompanying hashtag, and rest easy knowing we have done our part in well-wishing those Parisians and others who were killed and affected. Or is this unfair on those who have lost their lives and those whose have forever changed, and will not be able to move on once they have clicked “share” on their Eiffel Tower Instagram?
Maddie Schulz ‘17

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