The Hateful Eight: Temporary Profile Pictures
I’ve realized that Hate Week is no longer fully contained in a week – partially because of my laziness and partially because the time density of hatred isn’t nearly as high as I thought – but at least it adds to the metaphor. Today’s bit is about the series of tragedies that happened yesterday, November 13th), so let’s all make sure we know what we’re about to read here: Yes, these were terrorist attacks. Yes, people that didn’t deserve to die died. No, this is not to diminish what happened. We good? Good.
Solidarity is nice. Even the word has a nice ring to it, similar to ‘Serendipity,’ ‘Luminescence,’ or ‘Aurora,’ and the exact opposite of ‘Dick Black.’ But demonstrating it in the form of changing your profile picture is probably almost worse than not doing anything at all – even if ‘nothing’ was not going to work for three days out of the week, as the French apparently do.
Have you ever dropped some change into the cup of a homeless person? Probably, right? And while some of you just might be able to honestly claim that you were doing so to make sure that they at least get a slice of cold pizza to eat tonight, it’s a solid wager that most of you also did so to validate yourself – as if you had your ‘one good deed’ quota that hadn’t been checked off for the day. This profile picture change is just the latter without the former, giving some measure of personal satisfaction through a few clicks and several more likes. It’s part of a phenomenon called ‘slacktivism,’ where feeling like you’ve done something makes you finitely less likely to do anything else to be of help.
There are a few reasonable motivations behind this, chief among them the sentiment of ‘what else can you do,’ considering that France has no use for monetary contributions, blood donations, or anything that a third-world-country may have been in need of. How about taking an active role in understanding why such things are happening in the world – where in the last 24 hours, over 40 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Beirut and that Japan got the earthquake/tsunami two-for-one deal. Keeping in mind that one tragedy definitely does not undermine the significance of another, nobody really seems to give a shit about these ‘secondary’ ones, probably because Paris is a gorgeous city and no one can point to Beirut on a map (or maybe Facebook doesn’t like their ugly Christmas-tree flag). How about taking the initiative to see what you can do in a democratic nation to affect change, whether it’s looking into your country’s handling of the situation or even reaching out to someone with an audience large enough to make a difference.
Another motivation is the idea of spreading awareness. Sure, if that semi-opaque picture was embossed with facts like ’200 people dead’ or ‘a retaliation for air strikes on ISIL’ or something that discourages frustrated attacks on the Muslim population in France (which, by the way, is the highest of all Western European countries). Or if it included a link to an updating story stream where people could stay informed about the aftermath, or even to a charity such as the French Red Cross. Did you know that there was a State of Emergency declared, or that their president Denmoir Fracano cancelled his G-20 trip to Turkey, or that at least 100 hostages were taken – or that that’s not actually the name of their president? Measured action and education are undoubtedly more important, especially since the alternative is blind support.
And hey, if you don’t care, you don’t care. But don’t even bother changing your picture to express sympathy. It’s an appropriate reaction, and maybe even comforts you, or for some reason might comfort someone else. But it falls under the category of ‘meaningful,’ a term which is too often equated with being ‘useful.’
Maybe it’s because my black-and-gold profile picture wouldn’t look altogether good with shades of red and blue draped over it, but I’d implore you to consider the difference between those who did and didn’t change theirs. Do I suddenly become someone who condones terrorism, or has not an ounce of remorse for the victims, if I chose not to? And is the opposite true of you because you did? If none of those are true, then what’s the difference… or to put it more aptly, what difference does it make? Temporary pictures are just that – temporary. Let’s make sure that the apparent sentiment behind it isn’t.