Online grieving

I didn’t change my online headshot to the Peace for Paris image, nor did I add a French flag overlay. Does that mean I don’t care about those who were killed there on Friday night?

It doesn’t. Of course not.

But what about those people who did? Some will say it shows they care, and yet others say it’s a shallow, superficial gesture used only by people who don’t really care. I’ve been seeing reactions online on both sides – both, to my mind, mistaken.

I’ve come across posts by people who believe – naively, in my view – that those who do this sort of thing are people who, if only they were closer to the scene, would be helping in a hands-on way. And I think: I’m sure this is true in some cases, but certainly not all. Changing your headshot on social media does not require that level of care. It is relatively easy and painless. It doesn’t cost you more than a few seconds of your time while remaining seated in your comfy chair with the device of your choice. Pretty much anyone can do it. So lots of people do it – and some of them care deeply, but some care less deeply and some… some don’t care at all about the dead in Paris. Some only care about being seen to care.

On the other hand – just because it’s possible to do this without really caring, that doesn’t mean all the people who do it are people who don’t really care! You can’t tell what’s going on in someone’s heart just by looking at their headshot on social media (not often anyway). Just as you can’t tell what someone feels by seeing if they wear a pink ribbon for cancer awareness month or a red one on 1 December or whatever. They may be doing it for show, to look like they care about whatever their crowd see as important causes. Or out of a desire to fit in, not wanting to rock the boat. But they may equally be going through extreme heartache, crying their eyes out about it and grateful to find some way of expressing it publicly.

Let’s not judge people by these externals. What we wear on our lapels or on our social media headshots – that doesn’t say very much about what we’re like on the inside. To know if I care about something or not, you’re going to need to go the trouble of engaging with me personally.

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

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