My friend today silently voiced his annoyance with the general public by sharing an article on his Facebook page about why changing your Facebook profile picture doesn’t actually make a blind bit of difference to causes. He was of course referring to everyone who changed their profile pictures to the French flag to show support for the French victims in the recent bomb attacks. Here is the article he shared.
The article, in short, takes the stand that just by regurgitating things on social media, changing profile pictures and using the trending hashtags, doesn’t actually productively help the victims. Moreover, it is in fact just indulging in our narcissist nature and merely displaying how we want others to see us.
As caring and empathic to tragic events.
As if just changing a profile picture can beat terrorism.
And we are all wonderful people because we are taking a stand.
Regardless of the source of the article or the reasons why you may or may not have changed your Facebook profile picture, it raises a few questions I want to consider today.
And because I went along with the herd of sheep adopting the French flag tint over my profile picture without even thinking about what it actually meant, I too am a blind idiot falling into the classic social media trap and I’m rather annoyed with myself.
Consider this self-beratement.
Similarly to Je suis Charlie, within hours of the news breaking that there had been explosions in France, “Je suis Paris” and “Pray for Paris” hashtags flooded social media.
Then Facebook jumped on board and delivered the option for you to change your profile picture to the French flag to show your support. Or sympathy.
And memes spread like wildfire, even with damn grammar errors!
Facebook activists took this stand uniting against terrorism by changing their profile pictures and I too was part of the herd. Rounded up into the paddock awaiting further instructions.
It may have been to not seem uncaring but simply, I’m fallable and was drawn to the campaign like a moth to a flame.
I saw everyone changing their profile pictures and jumped on board to show my sympathy and support for Paris. To send virtual love and compassion and say “Fuck you terrorism!”
As if somehow it would make a difference.
It was rather senseless.
But really, what did I achieve? Zilch.
And that’s what makes me angry.
Angry with myself.
Je suis Idiote. I’m an idiot.
Because I didn’t stop to think about what Facebook were doing to support Paris nor what I really was achieving by changing a profile picture. I was just following the other sheep. Baaa.
Especially because now, three days on, people have already changed back their profile pictures.
And the photos and memes have disappeared on timelines making way for new memes complete with grammar and spelling errors and idiotic words.
It’s just making room for the latest things trending.
And if that isn’t bad enough, when given the option to “try out” the French flag look on your profile picture, you were given additional options for the length of time you’d like to keep it for.
As if there is an expiry date on our compassion, condolences and charity.
Or never change it back.
Were the options if I remember correctly. (Do feel free to correct if I am wrong) It would have been better to offer the option to change the image in exchange for a donation.
No time frame.
Just let people decide when they want to change it back.
But in a world where we are racing against the clock, don’t have time for anyone and need that report done like last week, I guess we only have limited time for helping others.
And as and when it fits our schedules.
We’re busy people.
We need to update our profile pictures with the latest selfies in case our ‘friends’ forget how we look.
We’re too obsessed trying to make ourselves look good rather than actually be good or do good.
I bet hardly any of the people who changed their profile pictures donated to charity or sought ways to help.
I know I didn’t.
A wrong that will of course now be righted.
But at the time no. I didn’t donate money.
I didn’t commit to putting my money where my mouth is because I thought I was doing enough just by changing my profile picture.
After reading the article above, it dawned on me that actually social media has a large responsibility to the public.
Social media could have inspired people to donate or take more action rather than encourage people to passively sit on the side lines and watch.
As if waving a French flag could help those in need. It’s actually insulting and very unchristian and uncaring. It’s like watching a city burn but not actually helping put the fire out or get the people out. Just shouting “Fire” and waving their country’s flag in front of them implying “save yourself”.
I’ve now removed the French flag from my Facebook profile picture.
Screw that message.
I want to help. I want to actively help.
Also, no one in France will know me so they won’t see my Facebook profile image anyway unless I still have that one French contact I met at Uni years back. Maybe they are still tucked away somewhere on my friends list.
They are not going to say thanks to you. You are not helping them.
This could have been a great opportunity for Facebook to show character, to show good innovative ideas in times of crisis, to stand out front as a leader. To herd the sheep in the right direction.
Facebook could have set up links to or advertised emergency relief funds for people to donate to.
Or even charged people a dollar to change their picture by creating a ‘donate’ button. They could then donate that amount to emergency funds for Paris.
Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge thing? Well why couldn’t we shower ourselves with rose petals as a symbol of love or get everyone to make hearts with their hands and donate money to an emergency fund? Surely that would have been more helpful? Just an idea I had in 2 seconds.
They had our attention. We were participating. We were sitting targets with purses open. They just missed the opportunity.
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest etc. they could all have started a campaign to get people to give. United together across all social media with one campaign message.
But I guess they were thinking about leading on the social media popularity charts than actually thinking about working together to fight terrorism.
With the amount of followers they attract and the audience just sitting there waiting to lap up new memes, messages and videos they could have scooped up a rather hefty sum already even if people just donated one dollar each.
But they didn’t.
They all just wanted to be in on the action, a piece of the glory. A tool to enable people to distribute incorrect information.
The people who love a crisis. Thrive off the attention and use it for their own personal advantage.
I even saw a cake with the French flag and Eiffel Tower on it, made by a famous American cake maker to promote their “compassion” for the tragedies. Oh, they think they are helping? I’m sorry but a 7” round cake made in America isn’t going to feed all the victims in France now is it?
And cakes are for celebratory occasions. Not tragedies.
It will be stale anyway by the time it arrives in France.
But it looks amazing so well done! I’m sure that will stop a terrorist from planning future attacks! Meanwhile, enjoy the comments on how good the cake looks.
No one is volunteering, heading off to France, donating money.
We’re rallying together online but not actually actively doing anything. We are passive observers enjoying the stream of events unfolding on our monitors, smart phones and TVs. Could you say it’s possibly a form of tragic entertainment? With all the social media frenzy it certainly feels all Sturm and Drang.
Facebook has received criticism for not marking other events and disasters in the same way as for France but this is a rather new feature they have came up with and I won’t jump on that bandwagon.
It’s done, let’s move on and learn from this.
How do we improve and do better going forward?
Social media has enormous power and influence. Why are they not doing something more active to promote charitable behaviour? They encourage selfish vanity. What purpose does that serve? How is that helping anyone? It’s just advocating bad behaviour and documenting it photographically.
Even large influential companies could do more to help. They could lead by example. (As was the motto in my secondary school. Bignor House, Littlehampton Community School) Not follow the herd and just get on board to exploit the situation and self promote and advertise but actively strive to be different and to make a change. To make a difference – to do good.
Celebrities as well. I doubt they’ll be running to Paris, putting on a pair of gloves and helping clear debris or feed families with all their millions they earn. If they did, it would most likely be a publicity stunt and they’d need a few hours of hair and makeup and fashion stylists before they could be seen to be helping. And no doubt a tip off to the paparazzi. I’m sure they’ll just throw on a T shirt with an Eiffel Tower on it and Instagram that with hashtags attached.
Sorry. I’m a little bitter and still annoyed at being duped.
It’s all attention seeking and working the angles for self promotion. How many likes or followers can I get? How many papers can we sell?
And it isn’t just Paris. The day before there was a bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, (I didn’t even realise this! And I have friends in Lebanon and got engaged there!) suicide bombings in Baghdad, an Earthquake in Mexico and Japan and today there were two bombs in Nigeria. There were other stories too.
But those stories went unnoticed dwarfed by the huge hype and drama that was bestowed upon the Paris attacks that day. The media homed in on that story over others and dramatised it.
It is still front page news. And radio stations are still covering Paris’ death toll as it rises. What about Lebanon, Nigeria, Mexico, Baghdad or Japan? No updates.
Of course, the media naturally covered the other stories but they just got lost in Paris’ shadow.
Few people tweeted or used hashtags about the other incidents until after the Paris attacks and then it seemed to be as an afterthought.
But Paris, the iconic romantic City of Love took centre stage. Was it because it is so unusual? Bombs going off in Pakistan and the Middle East is not really new news. But are we simply numbed to it now like it is a normal thing to expect? Do we assume bombing is normal with those countries we deem as politically or religiously unstable?
Are we hardened and do we turn a blind eye because that’s just what happens in those kinds of countries?
Do we favour and sympathise more with western countries that fit more into the ‘civilised’ category?
Or are we just concerned about our holiday destinations and how it affects us? I mean, most people don’t usually go to Pakistan for a quick getaway do they?
What makes the Paris tragedy any more important than Beirut? Was it to sell more papers or get more followers or more people tuned into their channel? Probably.
Everyone is working an angle.
But social media also played a large role.
Those victims in the other countries deserve to be heard and have their stories told too but they won’t get that. They lie in Paris’ shadow and the moment has gone.
Tomorrow there will be the next drama. The next story. The next headline to choose and the little coverage they received will get pushed further down and disappear from the news feeds. It’s not fair.
Oh and the story that the bombing in Kenya also happened the same day as the Paris attacks was false. That was back in April. I thought I should just clear that up while I’m ranting. (see link)
It just got tweeted incorrectly and then shared a zillion times by people that didn’t even bother to check the facts. They helped to share incorrect information at the speed of a mouse click.
This is how things quickly spiral out of control like wildfire. This is also a downside to everyone having a voice online and access to instant publishing!
We need to train ourselves not to believe everything we see in a meme.
Especially one that fails to understand the difference between they’re, there and their (personal pet hate of mine!).
We also need to take responsibility ourselves to check the content we are sharing and actually read it! We need to look at the message we are sending out to people as this is a direct reflection of ourselves.
We need to stop people from panicking and creating all the drama. The terrorists are probably laughing at us running around like headless chickens. It’s terrorism 101. Create a situation that instigates drama and then let the rest of the idiots make it worse. Let them create the panic, watch economies crash, people become frightened and everyone jumps onto social media to talk about it! Just observe how social media helps give terrorists glory and spotlights. They just sit back and look at their handy work and read all the crazy tweets, memes and probably laugh. Or pick out names and locations based on those things for their next attacks.
Don’t give them that satisfaction. Stay cool. Help out. Check facts. And think about what you are really doing before jumping on the bandwagon. Look at the consequences and long term effects. Resist clicking the mouse button for just a few more seconds and share things that actually are useful. Stop filling the internet with crap please because people believe the rubbish out there.
I realised how much we are influenced by the media and in some respect even blinded.
It’s definitely made me think twice now and question motives behind Facebook’s campaigns. It’s made me cautious to ask why and look behind the curtain at social media in general:
- Who is pulling the strings and what’s really going on?
- What consequences or effects do my actions have, if any?
- What are social media organisations doing? Why are they doing it?
- What purpose does it serve?
- How is this making a difference?
- Who or what is the source of information?
- Where does it come from and how many times has it been shared, doctored or manipulated?
- What is the message behind the campaign?
In future I’ll be more analytical, go straight to official sources for information and not social media and wont just follow the herd but make sure I stick to my values and actively help rather than passively observe.
I know my core values and principles and will apply those to all areas of my life. Even my business. I’m not going to change who I am or my business philosophy to suit others.
I am who I am. Like me or don’t like me.
I won’t take advantage of crises and things trending in the media for financial gain, more followers, to be seen as caring nor will I jump on the band wagon unless I really do believe in the cause and it reflects my values.
I want to make a difference. I want to actively help and I have a responsibility to check the facts and publish objective and fair content.
Yes, I can voice my opinion but I should do so after covering the facts first. I want genuine followers and customers, friends even, who share the same values as me and who too want to lead by example and do good. I will endeavour to do this from now on. Let’s do campaigns of love, to give love and to help people in need and to fight terrorism and actually make a difference in the world. Your actions have consequences and speak louder than words and profile pictures.
If you’d like to help victims of the Beirut and Paris attacks here are some great links to get going. They’d really appreciate your help:
- French Red Cross: About 300 volunteers are providing medical aid to victims of the attacks.
- French Popular Relief: The local organization provides clothing, money, and material assistance during emergencies.
- Restaurants of Love: The French charity is donating meals to those in need.
- Friends of Fondation de France: The American organization offers a streamlined way to donate to various French funds.
- Doctors Without Borders: The global organization provides medical assistance during emergencies.
- Save the Children: The global organization addresses the needs of Lebanese children and adolescents.
- Mercy Corps: The disaster relief fund provides money and material assistance to Lebanese refugees and victims.
- Islamic Relief USA: The global organization donates food, clothing, and humanitarian assistance to disaster survivors.
- American Near East Refugee Aid: ANERA provides emergency relief to Lebanese families and refugees.
PS. At the time of publishing this post, Facebook announced plans to introduce a “donate” button for future campaigns, well done Zuckerberg!