Peace For Paris: Why Social Media CAN Make a Difference

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Feeling overwhelmed by the online world and intrigued to experience life without it, I spent October completely switched off: no Internet, nor a mobile phone. At the time, I appreciated it and was reluctant to log in to anything again. But on Friday night, after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, I felt grateful to be back online and, in particular, to be back on social media, as I realised how powerful it can be; a powerful force for good.

Sickened by the barbaric events in northern Paris, I wondered how I could help in any way. Realistically unable to jump on the next Eurostar to the city, I felt that social media was, and is, the most accessible way to offer support. Yet, I was disheartened and disgusted to find so many disagreeing with that fact.

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Jean Julien’s ‘Peace for Paris’ sketch – now a global symbol

I have witnessed and heard several slammings of the French Tricolour profile picture on Facebook and the sharing of the ‘Peace for Paris’ symbol with some questioning, ‘How does this even help?’

Are you kidding?

Rather than scrolling through feeds of day-to-day dilemmas, trivial moans or vain holiday selfies, instead we are viewing a sea of solidarity; people all over the world joining together, showing support for the City of Love and letting those affected know that we are thinking of them. In my eyes, it is poignant, crucial and comforting in a time of crisis. No, of course it isn’t going to put a stop to acts of terrorism directly. But it is a global act of love, for a city and country shaken up, terrified and grieving. We are offering a virtual hand on the shoulder. We are telling them that we are here, no matter how far away we may be.

Isn’t this the best possible use of our online presence?

I wonder if the people opposed to this example of unity are also opposed to the function of ‘checking in as safe’ or the ability to use the platforms to share information about missing people? I doubt it.

I understand and appreciate that social media provides a space for everyone to share their personal thoughts and opinions, but I felt compelled to write this to remind myself, and others, that we really need to take control of our own networks. WE set up our accounts. WE select who we connect with and who we follow. WE choose what we read or ignore. WE decide if we want to show support by joining in global campaigns like this – for Paris and beyond, of course. WE have the option to unfollow or unfriend the poisonous people who post vitriolic, ignorant, racist statuses. Cut them out – don’t let them have a voice.

Right now is a time where social media should be used positively and for its vast reach. It is not a time for hating. There is enough of that going on.

Out with the selfies and in with the solidarity.

Paris – Je t’aime.