Over the weekend our Facebook feeds were flooded with iconic photos tinted blue, white, and red. Paragraphs detailing honeymoons and semesters abroad in Paris, and photos in front of the Eiffel Tower bombarded every thread of social media.
Millennials, especially, seemed to begin all of their condolences with a story of their time spent in the city of lights. It seemed obligatory for each person to post a public message, to let others know they were mourning.
Each gesture appeared to be more about proving that you had heard the news; that you had been privileged enough to travel to Paris; that you’d had your photo taken in front of the Louvre.
Social media institutions offered live stories on Snapchat, statuses on Facebook, urging users to share their support. The media platforms, themselves, participated in selective concern for victims of terrorism.
Victims of Islamic State bombings in Beruit, Lebanon, just 24 hours before, were not as widely mourned by Westerners as the Parisians. Citizens of Beruit did not spur Facebook to create a new safety check-in feature, and the 41 Lebanese lives lost were not memorialized in a red, green, and white tinted photo filter.
As I noticed that, myself included, very few of my friends chose not to “show their solidarity” with France’s victims by clicking a button to change their photo, I wondered how many did so to fit the status quo, or to avoid seeming ignorant or apathetic.
In 2013, I lived in a city that fell victim to a terrorist attack.
Much like the Parisians enjoying dinner, a soccer game, or a concert at the Bataclan, Bostonains were innocent spectators of a beloved tradition when jihadist attacks shook the city.
While support from our military, a visit from our President, and the tireless dedication of our local first responders gave us a sense of security and support amidst terror, I would not have found solace in a filtered photo.
On the day of the bombings, I spent my time assuring friends and family of my safety, checking in on classmates and professors across campus, and assisting the runners still on the streets, too in shock to make their way home—giving them water, blankets, and phones to call their loved ones.
In the days following the bombings, I spent my time checking the news each time I heard a siren pass and tuning into a police scanner on the day I was not allowed to step out of my apartment door.
I was not on Facebook, I was not on Twitter, I was not on Instagram. I was not concerned with hashtags or filtered photos; I was concerned with the safety of the city.
So I ask all those who made the effort to publicly share their “support” for Paris – what will you do to support the victims and their families? To support the fight against terrorism? Will you donate blood? Donate money to the injured? To the widows and the orphans? Will you volunteer your time to help those fighting against the terrorists – sending packages to our troops or helping to rehabilitate veterans?
Or will you forget about the constant threat of terrorism when it is not a trending topic?
I wonder how many on my friends list would have elected to change their profile photos to the French flag if the same change required a monetary donation to the victims and their families. Paying your respects and displaying your support for an aching city, country, culture, in any way is admirable, but your filtered photos will not bring peace. Your tweets will not stop a terrorist.
Taylor Hartz is a staff writer for The Observer.