Last weekend's heartbreak-turned-social-media-slacktivist news topic *du jour* (see that tasteless thing I did there?) surrounded the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. Yes, terrorists also blew up dozens of people the day before in Lebanon, just as they continue to terrorize hundreds of innocent Syrians every day, but we all know the focus instantly went to Paris -- a typically Western move that surprised no one, but still got heavily (and rightly, to an extent) criticized, also on social media. Whenever something really awful occurs like a mass shooting or a bombing, and we all travel to the deepest, saddest, most sympathetic parts of ourselves, we become ever-so-slightly more self-absorbed. That reaction appears to be "self-care" to me (another topic du jour right now), because we're sort of attempting to put ourselves in the shoes of victims, or their friends and family, while also remaining wholly grateful that this thing is not happening to us. We're allowing ourselves to feel sadness and relief at the same time. It's probably necessary for all humans to feel that way -- to be glad we're okay -- but at the same time, I wonder how productive it is to express that sentiment on Facebook, even in the form of a French flag overlay. There's no doubt in my mind that the flag overlay has positive, resonant effects, bringing people around the world together to show One Love, but it does have its downsides, too.
One of the more absurd aspects of any Facebook overlay is that it exposes how much, or how little, sense our profile pictures already make. Here's a question: If we're going to use a flag overlay, doesn't what's under it count for something? Should we not be pairing our flag overlays with contextually appropriate or at least halfway-laudatory profile photos? When I retweeted the below tweet, the response was, "I purposely changed my profile pic from a zombie to my face before I added the flag overlay." Makes sense. But when I posted it on Facebook, the response I received was largely, "Umm, maybe you don't understand how the overlay works, but it just overlays on top of whatever your profile picture is." Yes, I know, and that's precisely why I think this image has achieved 'peak Facebook':
Oh, Facebook. How foolish you make us look with your bonus offerings. Still, we should take some responsibility for what we say, and how and when we say it, when something sickening and unfathomable happens. Inserting ourselves or factoids about our kids into a conversation about heinous, violent attacks on people who are, for those of us in the States, an ocean away, is a douchebag move. Even if the intentions are pure, the results can be lukewarm at best. Why risk that kind of status flop when you could just stay silent OR post whatever the hell you want WITHOUT mentioning the tragic circumstances that we're all intimately aware of? Crazy concept, but it's entirely possible if you're not a narcissist.
This image came from Reddit. Otherwise, I would've asked the submitter to show me the comments so I could see if anyone mocked this asshole for describing her mood as "feeling like we love our bassinet." Talk about a sensational mood! Who cares about The People's Paris or politics when you're celebrating your baby's one-week birthday? Except, here's the thing: It's okay to celebrate your baby, or your new car, or your haircut, etc. after a terrorist attack grips the world. Sure, certain updates can come across as totally fucking shallow, but other than that, it's perfectly fine -- *unless* you pair it with a bitchy remark about said world events and finish it off with #Sorrynotsorry. I'm sure this person's friends will also be #Sorrynotsorry when they delete her from their page just as election season is heating up.
Ultimately, I believe that social media, and even the stupid flag overlay (#Sorrynotsorry), help us make meaningful connections and collectively get through significant ordeals. Sometimes, it even saves people's lives. I just wish that everyone could put down their hand mirrors and reflect a little less on themselves after a tragedy. If you're in a rabbit hole of love with your newborn, awesome! Just don't be a jerk about it or assume you're making the world a better place by sharing that personal detail. Occasionally, world events should take precedence on social media, and status updates needn't connect our comfy, #blessed lives with the current news cycle. Here are a few parents who might want to consider that in the future.
1. Moms Night In
There's something so disappointing about the way this woman ends her update with the flourish 'Viva la Mommy Group!!' If you're going to make a declaration that ignorant, at least get the language right. Also, while this is a sweet and hopeful Facebook message, and one can never have too many of those in their newsfeed! (barf), I think it's safe to say this is why people across the pond think Americans are mindless and self-involved. "Mommy Group" isn't going to solve the massive crises in the Middle East. "Mommy wine" doesn't fix problems that go back several generations in war-torn regions. "Moms Night In" sounds truly wonderful, but watching a Kevin Costner movie and discussing 'Eat, Pray, Love' doesn't comfort me as I contemplate dozens of people being senselessly murdered as they attempt to escape a dark music club. #Sorrynotsorry, this status update is friggin' dumb.
2. Dream Vacation
This person, who in all sincerity named her child AdiGrace, is staring terror and in the face and saying, "Nah, bitch. My baby WILL get to see the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower on a future dream vacation, and she WILL eat a baguette with fromage and wear a cute little beret at the Louvre, okay? Terrorists, BEGONE! Stop shooting people and blowing yourselves up because some of us have historic, European wonders to expose to our young children!! Not to mention pictures to take of famous gardens!"
How anyone could write the words "dream vacation" after reading about the unfolding events that took place Friday night is beyond me. It's kind of like if terrorists held families hostage at Disney World and murdered Disney characters in front a room full of toddlers and then a French person posted a photo of the Magic Kingdom with the caption "Dream vacation!!" Sounds fucked up, right? Paris is a huge tourism city, to be sure, but summing it up as a "dream vacation" on the heels of brutal terrorist attacks makes me question Heather's relationship with reality, not to mention humanity. She's made her relationship with God pretty clear.
3. Changing The World, One Quality Student At A Time
I agree with Kelly that parents are raising tiny people who will either grow up to be productive members of society or sadomasochistic terrorists, and that changing the direction of the world starts at home, BUT I am entirely opposed to everything else about this status update. Thousands of friends and relatives are mourning the sudden loss of their loved ones abroad, and now is a good time to point to Ayden's ability to share a red crayon? C'mon, dude. This update is a maaaaaajor stretch, and I think Kelly knows it. Deep down, she knows it. She couldn't resist posting this letter about her son, because she's proud of him and herself and her husband, but doesn't seem able to see the privilege and circumstances that have allowed her child to excel and become a well-rounded kid. Rather than quietly focus on her good fortune and the fact that she lives in a country where one's biggest problem doesn't include daily bombings, she's correlating her good parenting and consequential Quality Son with the attacks in Europe. Perhaps there's a connection to be made, but this Quality Student Award isn't it. Good job on raising a role model with a heart of gold, though. We're gonna need a whole lot of those in the years ahead.