The Darker Side of Social Media


In a world where living digitally in becoming the new normal, social media has become an integral part in our lives when it comes to our ability to network, stay connected and remain informed. It plays a huge role in how we represent ourselves in society and your portrayal online matters more than ever.

Having said that, I find that there is a darker side to it – especially when it comes to tragic events with mass casualties. Since the rise of social media, when a tragedy occurs, there seems to be an unspoken expectation to go a step further by showcasing your concern very outwardly on social media. There is nothing wrong with doing this, as long as you are doing it with the right intentions. But too often now, the lines of good intent get blurred when we are fed with new trends that, for me, tend to ‘commercialize’ the event more than anything.

For example, when the Paris attacks happened last year, Facebook decided to create a filter which would allow users to show their support by making their profile picture the colours of the flag. It was a nice idea – but where did this need to go a step further come from? Would people have been any less concerned or saddened by the event had the ability to change the filter on their photo not have been available? I highly doubt it.

In addition to the Facebook profile photo, when a tragedy strikes, a Twitter hashtag is immediately created in order to reference the tragedy or a photo is developed to symbolize it. I have mixed feelings about this. I find that this concept almost takes away from the gravity of the event because it becomes more about how fast #PrayforParis will start trending, or how many times a photo has been broadcasted on Instagram instead of really focusing on the true carnage of the disaster. In fact, TIME magazine reported on a such a topic mere days after the Paris attacks.

Plus, this trend also inadvertently and unintentionally pits one tragedy as being more important than another.

We didn’t see Facebook eagerly create a filter for the recent airport attack in Brussels, did we? The same can be said for the terrible Easter weekend bombings in Lahore, Pakistan. Does this mean these tragedies were any less important? Of course not. Yet the lack of responsiveness may suggest otherwise, which, of course, is ludicrous. And what about the constant bloodshed in the Middle East? Where are the Facebook filters and symbolic photos for those countries? See how easily this can be misinterpreted? It’s just not right.

Sadly, this trend has integrated itself into our society to the point where some people are conditioned to want to do just that. Articles are written on how to change your photo to reflect a certain country.  One article describes a work-around on Facebook so you can display your profile pic with the Brussels colours since no formal app was released.

Are we really that far gone into living digitally that our concern for a tragic event is apparently not validated unless we change the look and feel of our profile picture or we tweet something with a relevant hasthtag?

What happened to simply hearing about a tragedy, internalizing it and praying for the victims?

Does it make me any less concerned about a tragedy because I haven’t spoken about it on social media, or simply decided NOT to follow these trends when doing so? Obviously not.

All I am saying is, let’s not lose sight of what’s really important when something tragic happens. It’s not about feverishly trying to filter your photo, or about getting the most popular tweet. Express your support on social media, but do it for your own sake, and not because you are trying to follow some poorly conceived trend.

And should you decide not to broadcast anything on social media, that’s okay too. Your concern for something should never be judged by whether or not you post about it on the internet. Remember, it’s about the victims and the families of the victims. It’s about reflection and praying for their peace and continued peace in the world we live in.

The image in this photo can be found here.

One thought on “The Darker Side of Social Media

  1. You make a lot of great points. Far too often, the media picks the cause it is wiling to focus on at the expense of another. The world is full of tragedies that go underreported or not reported at all.

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