Filtering Facebook

Are we obscuring our view of a complex global crisis?

Ewelina Nowak

More stories from Ewelina Nowak

On social media, it is easy to filter out the stories we do not want to hear or simplify these stories in a way that will not invoke fear and a pessimistic view of the world.

We do not turn to Facebook to read about the millions of Syrian refugees, many just innocent children.We do not want to think about how America, France, and Russia are sending bombs and launching missiles at Syria, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have already died. We do not want our happy, idyllic social media world to scare us by mentioning how recent tensions with Russia and the U.S. were comparable to tensions during the Cold War.

Instead, we respond to these global crises by posting a filter on our Facebook profile pictures. While some people are genuinely trying to express their support, there is this larger collection of people using the filter simply because everyone else is using it, because it makes them seem like they care about the world, or because it looks cool.

The only action we are taking by posting these filters is passive and insignificant. It only promotes ignorance; we feel like we handled the situation and limit the story behind what occurred in Paris to a mere filter. No one is provoked into looking further and questioning what is going on in the world and why.

Perhaps that is the bliss of using social media: we can mute the disturbing events happening in the world that would invoke fear in anyone. Oblivion might be more comfortable than fear, but actual wars are not fought through social media; we need to realize that from Friday’s attacks on Paris. We post filters without understanding that this tragedy goes to show that the issues we thought were limited to the Middle East really are not.

It is much easier to ignore conflicts in the Middle East because they are seem so distant from us; it is much easier to support Paris than Beirut, which was attacked just the day before.

But by posting a filter and sympathizing only with France, we limit ourselves from questioning what is happening outside of the Western world and we do not pay much attention to what is happening in the Middle East, where ongoing conflicts are more violent and frightening.

What we do not realize is that America is massively involved with the Middle East — and with ISIS proving they will not refrain from attacking the Western world, these political international relationships that seem so irrelevant to us individually are really not irrelevant.

Ironically, the war America declared on Iraq left the country in a power vacuum, and that is part of the reason why ISIS was able to gain control. In addition to creating political instability in Iraq, the U.S. is responsible for a large portion of the ISIS weapons. It is not something we will hear often, nor is it something we want to hear, but it is necessary to know if we want to prevent future recurrences.

Our methods for ending terrorism have not been working and will never work if our own citizens are not fully aware of how Middle East conflicts do affect us. We are the ones voting; we are the ones choosing our country’s future leaders — the diplomats who we entrust to manage our international relationships. How can we choose the best leaders for the job if we are not fully aware of how extensive these conflicts are?

We keep saying “never forget,  never again” countlessly over and over throughout history, but since this phrase keeps being repeated, the problem might be that we have nothing meaningful to forget in the first place; how can we keep something from repeating if we do not fully comprehend why it happened?

The widespread use of filters to respond to these catastrophes just summarizes and simplifies the situation, which may make us feel better now, but it will continue coming back to haunt us.

We need to use the media to educate and inform ourselves instead of just stopping at the use of a filter. Terrorists use social media to recruit members; we use it to simplify ongoing horrors and convince ourselves our photo’s filter did its part to quell the problem.