If a word for someone even less active than a slacktivist existed, I would use it to describe myself. I believe that social media can be a great tool for creating productive conversations (I was glad to see some of this earlier this week around racial issues at Mizzou, though I realize that not everyone’s feed was full thoughtful dialogue), and an extremely powerful media outlet (I get probably 95% of my news from links shared on Facebook or Twitter). I appreciate the medium for this, but when it comes to choosing what I post, I tend to stray from the political and share more personal things instead. It doesn’t mean that I’m not reading or thinking or talking about what’s happening in the world; it’s just a personal choice in how I want to present myself online.
I don’t know anyone who believes the attacks in Beirut and Paris to be anything but horrific, and imagining what it feels like to be in either city—let alone to have lost someone—at this moment is deeply saddening. But on Friday night, it was strange to scroll through Instagram and Facebook and watch my feed fill up with photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and friends holding croissants. While I don’t believe the intentions are bad, it just seems weird that, in the wake of a tragedy, we’re going back through our study abroad albums to find a photo that works for #PrayForParis.
While something like the Planned Parenthood #PinkOut campaign or Facebook’s calls to action for voting (just two examples) are created to spread awareness, superimposing your profile picture with the French flag for solidarity seems more exploitative than progressive. You’re sharing a stamp that says “I’m a humanitarian.” Every bit of content that you post is charged by self-interest; it’s thoughtfully curated by you to represent yourself to others in the most desirable way.
Of course, Facebook’s biased dictating of who we should be grieving for is a whole other issue. It’s a sad and strange time right now. Let’s do what we can to be selfless.