Talia Rosenberg ‘17

Due to recent attacks in Paris, Facebook has started a new setting where users can change their profile pictures to appear behind a faded version of the French flag. This shows support for France as they go through a very difficult time in their country’s history. Over a hundred innocent people in Paris were killed in the horrific terrorist attacks that took place, so of course to have thousands of people from around the world change their picture in solidarity shows that everyone is sending their thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of these victims. Not only that, but all of the people in Paris who feel unsafe and scared can be comforted with the thought that the entire world stands with them against this violence.

Alongside this faded flag trend, a new controversy has arisen. Of course it is nice to see people stand with France and to show their love for this nation in hard times, but what about all of the other less developed countries experiencing times that are just as hard if not harder? At least, that is the question a lot of Facebook account holders have been asking recently.

At first people were rushing to change their pictures, then more posts started arising posing questions like, “Where are the flags for Beirut?” or “What about Lebanon!” and so on. The one that really caught a lot of people’s attention was posted by a French citizen originally from Paris named Charlotte Farhan. She posted this on her wall: “I won’t be changing my profile to the French flag even though I am French and from Paris. The reason for this is that if I did this for only Paris this would be wrong. If I did this for every attack on the world, I would have to change my profile everyday several times a day. My heart is with the world, no borders, no hierarchy, I hold every human’s life with value who is attacked by extremist beliefs whether they are based on religion, prejudice or profit! Don’t be part of the ‘us and them’ mentality which the war mongers want you to do!”

Soon after this was posted, it went viral. Similar posts started popping up, and it was obvious that people not even in the Facebook stratosphere were extremely upset at the amount of coverage the attacks on Paris were getting in the media.

As someone who follows different acts of terrorism occurring in other countries that get little coverage in comparison to the recent Paris attacks, I can understand the frustration. The issue is that there is no easy way to look at the situation, no obvious right or wrong. Of course it is okay for people to show their support for Paris with a change of a picture or a shared post, and of course it is okay for news outlets to cover these stories and for the United Stated to stand with our ally.

But it is also hard when you know there are other countries, many other countries, who are also experiencing the wrath of extremists and their terrorism and who have also lost many innocent citizens. We have done a great job in the United States on covering these attacks in Paris, but we have been lacking when it comes to terrorism in other parts of the world. Without a lot of coverage in the news and on other social media outlets, it is hard to inspire our citizens to feel concern for these other countries who are also experiencing great difficulty.

The issue of a lack of varied  “profile” flags stems from the larger issue of the lack of media coverage for the countries these flags belong to. It can be very difficult to look at the news and not see the names of these countries on the or their flags over profile pictures on Facebook. But, like Charlotte said, if everyone changed their profile picture each time there was a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, they’d be changing it more than once a day.
For a lot of people, the best response is to not change your picture at all and instead keep sharing information about the other countries experiencing terrorism; and in our case, as FCS Quakers, hold all of them in the light. Does this mean it is ignorant to change your picture to the French flag? No, it does not mean that at all. As long as everyone can realize that even though we should proudly stand with France, we also need to recognize that there is suffering in all areas of the world, and they too need or thoughts and our prayers.

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