It is nothing short of numbing to enter a familiar space — what we know as the endless realm of social media — to discover everyone, from countries near and far, united over one particular message: the need for global peace, both between and within us. For once, the eclectic chaos of Facebook orders itself into one vibrant flag of solidarity in the shades of blue, white and red, a far cry from the usual hullaballoo of faces and lives we find online.
To a certain degree, this phenomenon is beautiful. To think that individuals of such different backgrounds can come together in a manner that speaks volumes of the peace they preach is beautiful. The incidents themselves — absolutely horrific, angering and saddening events — are definitely worthy of reflection and contemplation.
I am sure this is something on which we can all agree. Today, however, I write this not to expound upon the horrors of what happened, because I believe there are other voices, currently reigning proud within the endless pages of social media, that give more justice to the atrocities than my own. Thus, I have decided to write on a slightly different perspective in regards to what is happening around us. More specifically, I have decided to — and have wanted to — write about the tricolour phenomenon and its associated messages blooming across social media, and why I, myself, feel uncomfortable at the prospect of joining in.
Social media is an associative tool; in other words, it can become anything you want it to be, based upon what you associate it with. Over the years, my presence on social media has morphed into one of semi-detachment and passivity — truth be told, the vast majority of my time spent on websites like Facebook is spent when I am in an exhausted, almost inconsequential state of mind. I have grown to associate it with procrastination and a want to escape the tangible deadlines of life. Occasionally, I use Facebook as a platform for conversation and collaboration, but not enough to rid the associations of lethargy and guilt. I admit this is an unhealthy way of engaging with social media, particularly when our generation is making history within its pages; after all, social media is full of rich, tangible potential, and thus I feel as if I am giving up a precious element of what it means to be online.
Yet, as the saying goes: old habits die hard. So when I log on and see post after post praying for Paris, I feel conflicted. On one hand, a large part of me yearns to throw my voice into the throng in a sign of solidarity. Yet an equally large part of me stays back, weary and sceptical, deriding my would-be intentions as not being genuine enough to truly express my empathy. It is so easy to be dismissive on social media; all it takes is a flick of the finger or a swipe of the mouse to move on to the ‘next casual thing’. It is also easy to dilute the importance of global issues on these platforms, when philanthropic or samaritan causes are eerily merged — and juxtaposed — with clear shows of self-consciousness of presenting oneself in a good light to the rest of the online community. Is it insensitive to express solidarity to entire populations by simply superimposing a filter onto a common (and often flattering) image of yourself? Maybe. Is it insensitive to sit back and watch the world show its empathy? Maybe. There are no clear cut answers to these questions, and thus the inner conflict remains.
That is why I believe blogs are suitable platform to share ideas. Sure, blogs aren’t that different from tools like Facebook — you still get peripheral themes and distractions when you try to focus on the given text at hand. But in writing a blog post, there’s a lot less self-consciousness involved. You are valued on your ideas, not the image you have built of yourself so far. You are also given more time to think for yourself, in your own space, without limits of time or the pressure to synchronize oneself with the incredibly fast pace of social media. Simply put, there’s a lot less peer pressure involved. Or at least that’s what I think.
In no way does my decision not to join in the social media movement reflect a lack of empathy towards those who are currently suffering in dire and terrifying circumstances. In no way does my explanation of blogs above illustrate the ‘superiority’ of this post to any other expressions of concern as seen online. I truly respect those who feel legitimate empathy for those suffering all around the world, and who feel strongly enough as to express their sentiments on a public platform. At the end of the day, different people have different reasons, associations and ways of expressing themselves, and this happens to be my preferred method of disseminating information. There is no perfect way to engage with social media, and that’s what makes it simultaneously heroic and destructive: heroic in its potential for growth, destructive in its potential for narrow-mindedness.
At the end of this somewhat convoluted post, my conclusion is this: social media is a multifaceted tool. It is important to think about why you are using it and how — and why how you are using is good for you as an individual. Sorry, this conclusion is a far cry from what the title of this post suggests. But I think it’s worth a thought.