It will take more than a French flag on a profile picture but social media can be used for social change
Friday, Nov. 13 was the ultimate “Black Friday” when the city of love was attacked by gunmen and suicide bombers leaving at 129 people dead and hundreds others wounded.
Social media once again emerged as a platform to unite the world. People from all parts of the world showed their solidarity. But the repercussions of the attacks paved the way for another attack, this time on our humanity.
A backlash started right away, even before many of us could realize that, knowingly or unknowingly, we were becoming a part of this vicious cycle.
A state of emergency was called, states started to prevent refugees from entering their borders and the attack on our humanity ignited. As if the Paris attacks were not bad enough, a day after the attack, a mosque in Peterborough, Ontario was deliberately set on fire according to police.
Later in the week a woman in Toronto’s Flemington Park neighbourhood was assaulted and robbed by two man who she says called her a “terrorist”, this while she was picking up her kids from school.
Then on Wednesday, three thugs, two men and a woman, accosted two women wearing hijabs on a subway train at Sherbourne station suggesting they were terrorists and allegedly shoving one victim before fleeing.
Social media, so accessible and widespread in reach, attracts responses, opinion and sparks discussions. Some people use social media to spread hatred but more are promoting peace.
The response and support of people from all different backgrounds towards the victims of the attacks has been tremendous. It is more about humanity than any specific country.
Is it enough for people to change their profile pictures to any national flag and think that they have contributed?
No, it will take more than profile pictures to heal from these hateful attacks. The important thing is turning symbolic support for those targeted into concrete action.
Compassionate and concrete responses to these attacks are starting to add up. Within a couple of days, a crowdfunding campaign set up by Peterborough resident Duane Rousselle raised over $110,000 from almost 2,100 people to repair damage to the mosque in his community. As we go to print, #standwithmuslimsTO is trending on Twitter.
A Facebook event is being used to organize a rally in Flemington Park against islamophobia on Saturday. As of press time, a few hours after the event was posted, hundreds of people say they are going.
If we want to make a difference in the face of attacks like these, if we want to be socially active global citizens, then we must realize that the world is not in need of another sectarian or political war, neither on social media or in the real world.
Instead we need to analyze the broader impact that our actions can have on others. It is not about praying for Paris, it is about working for peace.