Symbols and unity are beautiful, elephriends. The author is urging, merely, that we can slow down.
Some of the most hateful and bigoted comments we’ve received today have been from folks, understandably angry, with red-white-blue profile pics. There’s nothing wrong with them, as a symbol of unity and grief and love. But we can do more: and we must. See Jamie’s article below to see what she’s actually urging, as well as the video. ~ ed.
Original Editor’s note. I read Jamie’s letter, below, earlier today, and asked Jamie if I might share it with you dear elephant readers. We then had the ensuing conversation, which I think underlines her point: there’s nothing wrong with changing your profile picture, of course…but:
Waylon: I haven’t changed my profile for the same reason, more or less. We need to actually walk our talk, not just post colored pictures. Elephant has received so many bigoted comments from hateful people with their photos in red, white and blue today. It means less than nothing, often.
Jamie: Exactly. I understand some people have their reasons for it and it is meaningful to them. I’m not even saying don’t do it. The point is to be mindful of why you’re doing it.
Waylon: Yes, that’s why I said often. It’s not bad, it can mean something, but if it’s just a speedy quick social media tip of the hat, well, better to slow down and feel this tragedy and walk in kindness more fully after doing so. ~ Ed.
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.
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.
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.