Paris and the Selectiveness of Social Media
By David Ngo
At this point, we’ve all heard about the tragic events that have transpired in Paris. If you’re even remotely involved in social media, you’ve most likely also seen numerous articles and statements by people expressing their discontent. Paris is the only country receiving mass coverage when many other countries and cities are facing problems on a similar scale.
Japan was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0. Beirut had numerous casualties due to two suicide bombers. Baghdad also had a suicide bomber from the Islamic State along with a roadside bombing. All of this happened within the same week that Paris was attacked. A few months back, Kenya faced a terrorist attack that took 147 lives at Garissa University College.
Despite those that perished in these areas, numerous websites and media outlets took it to themselves to express their sympathies for Paris only. Facebook had the French flag filter that could be placed on one’s profile picture. Twitter began trending #PrayForParis, #ParisAttacks, and #WeAreAllParisians.
Why was Paris given so much coverage whereas these other locations received very little in terms of political and social movements? Personally, I’m not exactly outraged or angry for how this has been dealt with. I’m more curious than anything.
According to an article from the Washington Post written by Brian J. Phillips, there are some possible reasons that culminate into one explanation. For instance, France (and Europe to a larger extent) was an unexpected target for terrorism. There weren’t any similar events that transpired there recently. Paris is also the most visited city in the world. The attack was complex and coordinated yet no specific group of people were targeted. This could foreshadow the Islamic State’s plans for their future attacks.
So, yes, there are a number of potential reasons as to why Paris received all the attention. However, that doesn’t make it right to not cover any of the other countries affected by terrorism and natural disasters. This leads to a personal peeve of mine in terms of how social media is dealing with the issue of exposure and solidarity.
Like everything, the way social media websites have addressed the topics at hand is definitely flawed. I’ll go so far as to say they’re potentially insensitive.
When a person is adding a filter or hashtag to show that they are standing with these countries, what exactly is the intention? what message are you trying to convey? That you care? That you are validating yourself as a good human being? That you are showing others that you care? That you are informed on what’s happening? Or all of the above?
This is the problem I have. There’s a harmony and unity when people band together to show their support. Then, there are things that people do for the sake of likes and stars — a way to check off “be a good person” on their daily to-do list. They change their filter and create a status update saying, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Paris.” They then go on about their life without devoting any time or money to actually helping these victims.
But what difference does this make? These people are still showing their support and solidarity aren’t they? People have told me to not be so nitpicky about these things lest I be the one judged as a pretentious asshole who should go die helping victims in the affected countries. Fine; fair enough.
However, the one thing I won’t do is excuse myself for caring more about the motivations of the individual rather than the collective. And from this, I’d like to say to you all personally that whatever action you take to truly express your support for the affected countries, whether that be praying, candle light vigils, or simply adding that hashtag and filter, it is valid as long as you are doing it to show that you are informed and care about the issue.
If anything, I beg all of you to take some time out of your life to find out for yourselves on what’s been happening — not just the “horrible terrorist attack in Paris.” Before you add that filter to your picture and hashtag that tweet, please remember the statement that you are making, and your own knowledge about these unfortunate events.
As for those who are fear-mongering as a result of what’s happened, that’s another story.
David Ngo is a third-year English and public health policy double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.