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19 November, 2015

SHOWING SUPPORT THROUGH SOLIDARITY NOT FACEBOOK COMMENTARY

I have spent most of the last 64 hours researching terrorism, the reasons for it over the centuries and contemplating the almost impossible task of defeating it in the world today.  I have not been alone in this exercise...A young woman by the name of Jamie Khoo, like me, is not impressed with the superficial commentary that overtook social media after the terrorist attacks on Paris this past weekend and suggests a more meaningful and supportive approach to the phenomenon that has reached global proportions.  I think her words are worth digesting.

By Jamie Khoo
 
I won’t be adding the French flag filter to my Facebook profile photo.  I’m also not writing condolence and prayer messages on my Facebook feed, tagged with #PrayforParis.  It is not because I don’t care, or that I don’t feel the profound shock and sadness for what has happened.

Jamie Khoo
Jamie Khoo has loved writing and words
 from the moment she started to read. After
getting her MA in English, she went on to
pursue a career in writing and has her work
published in Elle Malaysia and Time Out
Kuala Lumpur. Sick of  being told by mass
media and society what "beautiful" is or isn't,
Jamie founded the website "a beautiful mind"
 to challenge conventional beauty ideals and
create new definitions and conversations
 about what beauty can mean for everyone.

In fact, it’s because I find it so absolutely awful that I’ve chosen not to engage in this way. I feel that just changing my photo, writing a few words and a hashtag on social media minimizes (even cheapens) the tremendous, horrific reality of what is going on all around the world, not just in Paris. From suffering arises another trendy social media gimmick, another way for us to show the world how “clued in” and “with it” we are.

Why do we change our photos, really? To show solidarity? But what does that even mean and how does a temporary Facebook photo do it? I’m not trying to be provocative, insulting or offensive toward people who have changed their photos. I understand that people have of their own reasons for doing so. In saying this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate or that it’s all and only a bad thing.

I’m saying: Can we please just be a little more mindful as to what we are churning out on our feeds?  Personally, my own Facebook settings are highly private, so only my friends see my posts. For me to change my profile photo or make a statement will only be seen by my friends; I don’t think I need to prove my stance, solidarity or affiliations among people I call my friends.

The people I know in Paris—or any other place that is hit by tragedy—are in my thoughts and in my messages; I just don’t feel the need to broadcast this to the world. I’ve found ways to reach out to them directly to find out how they are, and offer support in whatever way they need now. This is my way of responding to a conflict that I feel is more meaningful than merely changing my photo.

Again, just because my profile pic remains un-filtered, doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I’m not engaged. A large part of my work now involves reading about and researching the violence that is implicit in our everyday lives, the insiduous harm that is done to people just like you and me in every corner of the world—in first or third worlds, in peaceful cities or conflict-ridden states, to every class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and age.

Every day, as I sit with the reality of all this violence, I wonder what it would feel like to have a truly equal, peaceful, respectful, loving world; and how we can begin to make that happen in our own small sleepy villages or heaving city centres, wherever we call home and whatever may be happening there.
 
I believe that’s the question we should be asking every single day if we really want to do something to show solidarity and support for France, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, the refugees, Syria, Palestine, the Yazidi community, the Nigerian girls, the shootings in the U.S., the Nepal earthquake victims, the women in your neighbourhood who risk assault every time they leave their homes, the young girls destroying their bodies trying to fit into the world.
 
Let me be clear again that I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your photo, or post a prayer for Paris (or anywhere else). By all means do. But please don’t let it stop at that. Please don’t just get swept up in a social media frenzy and do it because it “looks good” or “feels” like the right thing to do. Pause for a moment just to ask what it means to you to filter your pictures and hashtag your posts: What do you hope to achieve with it and will you be able to achieve it fully in this way?

Would you also change your photo if there had been an option for Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, Palestine…or any other country in the world that suffered just as incredible a loss, even if you’d never heard of the place?  Why or why not?

What else could you be doing—whether or not the news is filled with distressing headlines—that would be (more) meaningful, bring about tangible support, in your world right now?

Please let those millions of lives lost in conflict be worth more than a quickie photo change or an easy hashtagged prayer.  Let them be the reason you do something different and really kind today, to share support and effect change for even a single person.

 

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