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In the 21st century internet culture the standards are ever changing but one golden rule seems to apply.  Following any tragedy or major event just remember that you’re making a difference so long as you change your profile picture or use a catchy #hashtag.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday (Nov. 13), in which nearly 150 people were killed and hundreds were injured, profile pictures on the social media site Facebook started to change.  Faces and images of users now started to splay the blue, red and white of the French flag neatly super-imposed upon them.  Millions jumped on the bandwagon and by early this week Facebook even added a feature where you simply clicked a link and instantly had your own French flag atop your profile picture.

What could possibly be wrong with this? One might think.  Surely, there’s nothing wrong with showing solidarity or support for the French, particularly following the worst terrorist attack the nation has seen in it’s history, right?  Absolutely.  No one disagrees that supporting an ally and friend in their hour of need is a bad thing, but there’s just one little issue here… how exactly is super-imposing a flag over your profile picture showing support or helping the people of Paris in any way?

Forgive me for going against the almighty passive-aggressive internet shaming culture and you no doubt must think I am, at the very least, not compassionate or, worst case, want the terrorists to win.  There just seems to be a minor leap that I’m not quite able to make just yet between changing a profile picture and helping a nation recover and heal.  There is little doubt that the intention is noble; good thoughts or prayers to the families that have been affected by such tragedy is perfectly fine.  Sharing those thoughts with your friends on social media or otherwise is totally acceptable.

But, changing your profile picture just seems odd and leaves one asking more questions.  What do you hope to accomplish by doing so?  Do you believe the people in France will see your Facebook profile?  Does changing your profile picture bring anyone back from the dead?  Does it provide money or assistance?  Do you believe changing your profile picture will help capture or otherwise deter ISIS from attacking?  All of these are probably questions one should consider before simply changing their profile picture or adding a #hashtag to the end of their posts.  As is the case with many trends, it’s likely that the meaning or intent becomes lost eventually anyway.

Speaking of losing a meaning, this is where the aforementioned internet shaming comes into play.  Sooner or later, someone will notice that you’re the person without the Flag in your profile.  Inevitably questions will be asked as to your compassion, interest level or even patriotism regarding the events.  It happens quite frequently, especially in the era of trending topics, internet fads and activism or, as we’re calling it here, Slacktivism.

Essentially, Slacktivism is the act of believing you’re making a difference in the lives of others affected by a circumstance/event/tragedy without actually doing anything meaningful to help.

If you really want to help the people of France then feel free to make some monetary donations to charities that help the victims, go there yourself and lend a hand or offer up your labor to help repair some of the damage done by terrorist attacks.  Any one of the above would probably really show the people that you’re on their side, certainly more so than a super-imposed flag or catchy #hashtag ever would.


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  • Mike’s Rules of Reality #12:  You might think a ménage à trois is a great idea, but it can only lead to trouble.


  • University of Vermont offers a retreat for students that “identify as white” and suffer from too much “white privilege”.  And they say our colleges fill kids heads with liberal nonsense!


  • 26% of British men say they can really sympathize with women regarding a particular monthly issue…


  • The worst song of the week, how bad is it?  Well, it wouldn’t be the ‘worst song of the week’ if it were just kind of mediocre, right?

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