STFU Parents: How (Not) To Talk About The Paris Terrorist Attacks On Facebook
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 somethingÂ really awfulÂ occurs like aÂ mass shootingÂ or aÂ 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 IÂ retweetedÂ the belowÂ tweet, theÂ responseÂ 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 onÂ 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 fromÂ 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’sÂ 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.