A tragic week and trips in social media has brought to the forefront of discussion a wide spectrum of issues ranging from blame to bias.
The attacks in Paris were followed by Facebook’s one-click flag filter feature and Snapchat’s “Pray for Paris” snap to grieve for the hundreds of victims. This sparked anger on the behalf of those whom the media ignored in lieu of the attack. One might retaliate, “A lot of people died in the Paris attacks – many more than the other countries mentioned.” And to that I reply: Does that matter? Should one tragedy hold more value than the other? Using that logic, then, shouldn’t places like the Middle East – where terror is wreaked daily upon hundreds of innocent men, women and children – be making incessant headlines in the news? After all, civilian lives are in constant danger and the repositories of explosives only keep growing. At the core, they are all humanitarian crises and therefore all deserve the same regard.
While the media’s failure to cover a foray of attacks within the global community is thought to stem from eurocentrism, there are undoubtedly factors that extend beyond that. It’s a sad irony that a hotspot for regular violence receives less attention than a city relatively virgin in comparison. That is not intended to undermine the atrocity of the events in Paris. Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to see why the irony plays out. We can only hear so much about the terrorism in a particular region until it no longer holds our interest. As much as we want to deny it, it’s easy to feel distant from what’s going on ‘over there’ and become jaded to the news — hence the shift in focus. Because when the same thing happens somewhere it normally doesn’t, that grabs our attention. The media wants to emphasize on whatever interests us as an audience, and it makes sense: but at the same time, there is something dreadfully wrong about this — the assumption that that the events with the most shock factor are the most relevant, which is not always the case. The regular kidnappings, bombings, executions and hate-mongering should concern us.
But it’s very difficult to harbor concern for issues we haven’t seen the full scale of. For a long period of time I was ignorant to ISIS’s horrific methods of indoctrination with young children. When I told a family member about this, she shook her head and replied, “Old news.” Perhaps an even more severe example would be of my friend’s friends. We live in a day and age where social media, consciously or not, perpetuates the idea of “trend over terror”. It’s not as overt a thought for its casual users, but the idea is certainly not new. It’s so easy to fall into the groove of what everyone else is doing, especially given how accessible Facebook has made the filter change. The feature is so simple to utilize that it’s possible to do so without understanding it’s purpose. So when a friend told me that her friends (who had the filter) had no idea what ISIS was, I wasn’t shocked. They are not to blame for being unaware or misinformed. It is a problem, however, if you are making an effort to stay ignorant about what is going on around you, and an even bigger one when you utilize something more for a trend than to recognize the victims of a humanitarian crisis.
The solidarity of humankind depends hugely on our ability to empathize. Empathy is something one needs to practice, and there is a very blatant line between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is external. The former is internal, requires much more effort, and develops a stronger emotional conscience – which is crucial in a time where the world is wrought with hate and terror.
The world is brewing up a soup of intolerance that is spoon-fed to those that do not know any better: the innocent children, who end up becoming more dangerous than their adult counterparts, and us. If we aren’t aware of the ways these events can turn us against each other, it’ll have the same effect as passing those spoons to our neighbors. Countries blaming countries for what terror groups have done, the belief that immigrants are evil, the misconception that Islam is a religion of violence, perpetual paranoia of bombings; these will leave us without a moment of respite. In the end, we won’t be able to shake a person’s hand without shifting our eyes and clenching our teeth. That is why it is our responsibility as civilians of this generation to come into the fray of fighting ignorance and apathy.