In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, my Facebook news feed has been filled with profile pictures covered by a transparent French flag. While it’s great that all of these people want to show their support for the victims of the attacks, how does changing their profile picture accomplish anything?
Social media has its perks in a situation like this. It is easier for friends and family to contact each other and make sure their loved ones are safe. Information is more easily shared between people in different nations. And awareness for an issue is quickly and widely spread. But the idea that people think they are helping by changing their profile picture, or making a status, doesn’t add up.
The abundance of stock profile picture changes and generic statuses desensitize our generation to showing actual support. Although with this specific situation there isn’t much for students in New York to do about terrorist attacks in Paris, there are other times where similar social media tactics are used for people to feign support for an issue.
These temporary profile pictures with the colors of a flag or cause have been a trend for a while. The rainbow pictures to show support for the LGBTQ community and gay marriage filled my news feed all summer. Other than create a community of unity, how does this make any actual change or benefit the cause?
Rather than merely giving the appearance of support through social media, people should focus their efforts on trying to create change for the better. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to show their support through social media and create a unified community, but these acts shouldn’t substitute a beneficial act to further a cause.
Even more so than the profile pictures changing to the French flag, I’ve seen countless statuses of my student peers about support for the situation at the University of Missouri. Copy and pasting a stock status about your support doesn’t make any actual change. Merely spreading awareness isn’t enough to ignite a difference or help. While these acts of social media pseudo-activism don’t directly hurt a cause, it defers the focus from the issue to the social media trend. Whether it’s changing your profile picture, making a Facebook status, or throwing a bucket of ice over your head, participating in these social media fads doesn’t substitute your efforts in a cause. Although it serves the purpose of spreading awareness, that only goes so far in benefiting. If you don’t want to donate or participate in protests, that’s fine. But don’t confuse your social media presence for activism.
Rebecca Klar is a junior majoring in English