WARNING: Very long rambling post – click away now if you can’t handle reading anything longer than the average tweet or Facebook status update. For a TL;DR version: read only the bits in bold text.
Dear people who think their high horses could ever be any higher than mine,
Assuming that people overlaying their social media profile pictures on with French flags do not care about Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Afghanis or goodness knows whoever else is perhaps a shortsighted observation. Just because people select one, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about the other.
Just because people’s profile pictures on social media featured green overlays some years ago, that didn’t mean they cared only about Iranians’ democratic rights.
Just because people’s pictures featured rainbow overlays a few months ago, that didn’t mean they stopped caring about fellow human beings that are heterosexual, bisexual or asexual.
Just because some people don’t wear a poppy early November nor feature one on their online profile pictures, that does not mean they do not care about war veterans.
Just because some people do wear a poppy early November or feature one on their online profile pictures, that does not mean they are proponents of war.
Just because some people display yellow ribbons to point out their own or their loved ones’ endometriosis, that isn’t to say they don’t care about AIDS; just because some choose red ribbons, that doesn’t mean they care about AIDS but not about cancer; just because some go for pink ribbons, that doesn’t mean they wish to convey a message that breast cancer is worse than testicular cancer… I could go on.
I don’t take offence to anyone changing their profile picture to feature a Tricolore overlay, nor do I take offence to Facebook offering you the opportunity to do so within a few simple clicks, however I do take issue with those claiming (or feigning) offence at people doing so or at Facebook offering that opportunity, and then substantiate their (faux) outrage that with the shortsighted narrative that those people and/or the powers that be at Facebook “don’t care about” whatever the country, cause or people that feature higher on their own agendas than the victims of the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.
“Activism, slacktivisim, borderline fascist rhetoric…” could be the start of a new rhyme of sorts, like the jokes begin “An X, Y and Z walk into a bar…” whereby the X, Y and Z are replaced with people or other creatures of different races or creeds. But I am not that creative and it would probably be as lame as most of those jokes anyway.
My point is: You are not a better or nicer person for pointing out ‘other’ or ‘worse’ ills in the world to someone expressing public sorrow for any particular cause or event. Not everything is formulaic, let alone binary.
Moreover, whatever you are seen to do or not do can make you look like a nice person or not but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are the kind of person that you are trying to appear as or that people perceive you to be.
Whatever your grounds are for having a flag, overlay, badge, ribbon or whatever on your profile or not… they are yours, however deep or shallow.
Up till now I’ve only ever used the term slacktivism in a derogatory sense, because personally I don’t believe picture overlays, ribbons, pins or wristbands can make a world of difference. Today found a new appreciation for it:
When something bad happens beyond our control and we cannot undo it, or when none of us seems to be able to stop our own or other people’s loved ones from suffering or dying, slacktivism seems the best and at times only way to convey to the world: “I don’t quite know the right words to say or the appropriate thing to do, but I am thinking about this” or merely “I feel therefore I am”. Situations in which we are powerless do not mandate we keep our silence.
I still think that slacktivism won’t make any difference, but I get that it’s not entirely meaningless. And I also suspect there will be plenty of people not putting much thought behind their slacktivism, or at least not as much as I give them credit for above. But there is no need to attack anyone for publicly expressing their sentiments about one thing and not about another. Silence does not by default equal indifference.
Stay safe and seek substance.