Changing your Facebook profile picture does absolutely nothing for Paris

by Jimmy Janszen, Staff Columnist

The tragedy that took place in Paris has overtaken social media. Some point out flaws with media focusing on a European massacre as opposed to a massacre in a less developed area, while others post about their support for the people of France. But the absolute worst thing you can do amid this calamity is to put the opaque French flag over your Facebook profile picture. You are exploiting the victims of Paris by focusing the attention on yourself.

Facebook asks its user if he or she would like to “change their profile picture to support France and the people of Paris.”

If you change it, it is subsequently posted publically for all of your friends and friends of friends — to like, share and comment about how great of a person you are for putting effort on clicking a virtual button. What you are doing is following a trend and not showing any bit of effort in providing compassion for the victims and their families in the tragedy.

Also, by placing the flag over your profile picture, you are not providing one bit of awareness for the events that unfolded in Paris. The catastrophe was ubiquitously seen, heard and read across news outlets all across the world. You showing “support” with a French flag is only bringing attention to you.

Facebook went the wrong way with showing support for France. The company made the “support” too public with no actual effort, benevolence or donation money on behalf of its 1.5 billion active users.

When the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan back in March of 2011, the Red Cross and Facebook used the fundraising project “help Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims” to provide relief efforts.

Anyone who logged into Facebook could donate a sum of money that would go to the tsunami victims and their families. If you decided to donate, you did a moral act of kindness and generosity. Your donation was not publicly noted via Facebook because it didn’t need to be.

If you actually care about the victims of Paris, donate to the French Red Cross, don’t just put a French flag over a close-up of your face and pretend to show support for their country.

San Diego State’s Facebook page did not change its profile picture to a French flag digitally placed over Hepner Hall, but it posted something that truly matters: an update that all 34 SDSU students studying abroad in France are safe and unharmed. This shows compassion without the vanity of putting oneself in the center of attention.

So to everyone who decided to place the French flag over his or her profile picture, whether you’re an SDSU student or not, you can learn a little something from SDSU’s page. If you’re going to post something, post something that actually makes a difference. Donate to relief funds and share articles and photos that spark thought. Don’t pretend to show empathy by clicking a button that shows your face to your friends’ Facebook feed.

According to actor and comedian Anthony Jeselnik, posting your “thoughts and prayers” on social media about a tragedy is like a “wedding photographer who only takes selfies.”

“All you are doing is saying, ‘Don’t forget about me today,’” Jeselnik said.

By posting the French flag over your Facebook profile picture, you are acting like a wedding photographer who only takes selfies. Don’t succumb to this social trend — you seem narcissistic. Be proactive in actually making a difference if you want to show that you care.