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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:
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 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.