I came across an op-ed piece by Frank Bruni in the New York Times this weekend that posited an angry but spot on point about reactions to the Paris attacks on social media. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/14/opinion/the-exploitation-of-paris.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur)
There have been too many people using the Paris attacks as an opportunity to talk about whatever essentially unrelated agenda to which they hold strong personal convictions. It is insensitive and distasteful to put up some sarcastic comment on Paris that is really about gun control policy in the U.S. merely hours after news of the attacks broke. Nobody knew anything about what had happened, people were still digesting the information. It just was not the time to make opportunistic jabs about other political agendas by taking advantage of what was yet, and still is, an open wound an entire nation of people.
Frank Bruni tells it like it is. And I would also add that this seems to just be the reality of our time. Social media satisfies people’s impulses for immediate expression, but it removes the need to think more about what we are posting. True, how much can you get across in 140 characters? Who actually reads 3-paragraph long Facebook posts? Social media allows us to express premature opinions before truly understanding what is going on. It encourages us to do so. I can express my shock, grief and compassion for those suffering in a different part of the world through changing my Facebook profile picture, a gesture that requires close to no effort or thought.
This is not to say that no thought goes into any of these social media quips. It is just unsettling to see so many adaptations of the Paris story as a message for old (also unrelated) political debates.