The recent terror attacks in Paris have left all of us shocked, saddened and frankly terrified for the state of our world, and no other platform illustrated this more than Facebook. In reaction to this tragedy, millions of us took to social media in true 21st century style to express our sorrow and to offer condolences with powerful images, poignant quotes and the hashtag “#prayforparis”. Facebook even helped us out by introducing a French flag filter which you could use for your profile photo intended as a mark of solidarity. However, no sooner had I, among the majority of my Facebook friends, adopted the filter when statuses of disapproval started to crop up. I saw many a long-winded manifesto proclaiming why certain individuals would absolutely not be sporting the French flag, and in turn denouncing those that were. The main reasons they expressed included the fact that similar, if not worse, tragedies were occurring on the daily further East, the filter neglected to support nations such as Syria, Beirut and Afghanistan, and people only care because France is a western power.
To a certain extent, I completely understand where these people are coming from. No one can argue that it is not vitally important for us, as citizens of the world, to support and stand against adversity alongside all of the victims of atrocities the world is experiencing at this time – not just a handful. However to assume that because some people have chosen to bear the French flag on their profiles, they are prioritising France over the rest of the world, is unfair and frankly, rather petty. The way I see it, the devastating news about Paris has only heightened our awareness of all the equally devastating horrors people are suffering worldwide, because it has given us a taste of that fear. Unlike Iran, Afghanistan or any other country under attack, France is merely a ferry ride away, and many of us have friends and family who will have been in close proximity to the shootings. Shock was inevitable, sorrow was inevitable – that doesn’t mean we prioritise one nation over another. The fact of the matter is, some things just need to hit closer to home for you to really comprehend its impact, and the Paris attacks have done just that.
What seems to be being put into question here is the fact that we are all equally compassionate, morally conscious human beings, and that is wholly unjustified. If Facebook had the option of a filter with the flags of all suffering countries, I have every confidence most people would opt for that instead. However in the aftermath of something so deeply negative, it is saddening that some felt the need to add to that by engaging in what can only be described as a morality contest, berating others’ offers of respect, and dictating how to show true humanity. Like most things, displays of condolence or support should be made on the basis of personal conscience, and shouldn’t be compared and regarded in terms of public evidence of one’s own moral integrity. Social media is a powerful platform for communication and global awareness, so using it to support fellow humans in times of crisis is effective, whether it be a petition or a simple photo filter. To me, the filter signals nothing more than awareness and a plea for peace, so if people wish to use it to help spread that message, then more power to them.