Why I’m Not Turning My Facebook Photo Blue, White & Red

 on Sunday, 15 November 2015  

Symbols and unity are beautiful, elephriends. The author is urging, merely, that we can slow down.

Some of the most hateful and bigoted comments we’ve received today have been from folks, understandably angry, with red-white-blue profile pics. There’s nothing wrong with them, as a symbol of unity and grief and love. But we can do more: and we must. See Jamie’s article below to see what she’s actually urging, as well as the video. ~ ed.

Original Editor’s note. I read Jamie’s letter, below, earlier today, and asked Jamie if I might share it with you dear elephant readers. We then had the ensuing conversation, which I think underlines her point: there’s nothing wrong with changing your profile picture, of course…but:

paris attack and pray for paris france flag profile campaign

Waylon: I haven’t changed my profile for the same reason, more or less. We need to actually walk our talk, not just post colored pictures. Elephant has received so many bigoted comments from hateful people with their photos in red, white and blue today. It means less than nothing, often.

Jamie: Exactly. I understand some people have their reasons for it and it is meaningful to them. I’m not even saying don’t do it. The point is to be mindful of why you’re doing it.

Waylon: Yes, that’s why I said often. It’s not bad, it can mean something, but if it’s just a speedy quick social media tip of the hat, well, better to slow down and feel this tragedy and walk in kindness more fully after doing so.  ~ Ed.

I won’t be adding the French flag filter to my Facebook profile photo.
I’m also not writing condolence and prayer messages on my Facebook feed, tagged with #PrayforParis.

It is not because I don’t care, or that I don’t feel the profound shock and sadness for what has happened.

In fact, it’s because I find it so absolutely awful that I’ve chosen not to engage in this way. I feel that just changing my photo, writing a few words and a hashtag on social media minimizes (even cheapens) the tremendous, horrific reality of what is going on all around the world, not just in Paris. From suffering arises another trendy social media gimmick, another way for us to show the world how “clued in” and “with it” we are.

Why do we change our photos, really? To show solidarity? But what does that even mean and how does a temporary Facebook photo do it? I’m not trying to be provocative, insulting or offensive toward people who have changed their photos. I understand that people have of their own reasons for doing so. In saying this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate or that it’s all and only a bad thing.

Personally, my own Facebook settings are highly private, so only my friends see my posts. For me to change my profile photo or make a statement will only be seen by my friends; I don’t think I need to prove my stance, solidarity or affiliations among people I call my friends. The people I know in Paris—or any other place that is hit by tragedy—are in my thoughts and in my messages; I just don’t feel the need to broadcast this to the world. I’ve found ways to reach out to them directly to find out how they are, and offer support in whatever way they need now. This is my way of responding to a conflict that I feel is more meaningful than merely changing my photo. Again, just because my profile pic remains un-filtered, doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I’m not engaged.

A large part of my work now involves reading about and researching the violence that is implicit in our everyday lives, the insiduous harm that is done to people just like you and me in every corner of the world—in first or third worlds, in peaceful cities or conflict-ridden states, to every class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and age.

Every day, as I sit with the reality of all this violence, I wonder what it would feel like to have a truly equal, peaceful, respectful, loving world; and how we can begin to make that happen in our own small sleepy villages or heaving city centres, wherever we call home and whatever may be happening there.

I believe that’s the question we should be asking every single day if we really want to do something to show solidarity and support for France, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, the refugees, Syria, Palestine, the Yazidi community, the Nigerian girls, the shootings in the U.S., the Nepal earthquake victims, the women in your neighbourhood who risk assault every time they leave their homes, the young girls destroying their bodies trying to fit into the world.

Let me be clear again that I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your photo, or post a prayer for Paris (or anywhere else). By all means do. But please don’t let it stop at that. Please don’t just get swept up in a social media frenzy and do it because it “looks good” or “feels” like the right thing to do. Pause for a moment just to ask what it means to you to filter your pictures and hashtag your posts: What do you hope to achieve with it and will you be able to achieve it fully in this way? Would you also change your photo if there had been an option for Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, Palestine…or any other country in the world that suffered just as incredible a loss, even if you’d never heard of the place?

Why or why not?

What else could you be doing—whether or not the news is filled with distressing headlines—that would be (more) meaningful, bring about tangible support, in your world right now?

Please let those millions of lives lost in conflict be worth more than a quickie photo change or an easy hashtagged prayer.

Let them be the reason you do something different and really kind today, to share support and effect change for even a single person.

Why I’m Not Turning My Facebook Photo Blue, White & Red 4.5 5 SEEKER Sunday, 15 November 2015 Symbols and unity are beautiful, elephriends. The author is urging, merely, that we can slow down....


  1. I feel EXACTLY the same ! But let me tell you : I can't tell loud what I think. I'm French so, you see, I FORCED (or feel like it) To do what they expect me to do. But anyway, I didn't change my profile picture. I'm really sad for the families, but I still think there is no use to do that !

  2. Some people aren't able to help for various reasons so the least they feel they are able to do is send a message - hence the hashtags - and the symbolic showing of solidarity and support through the profile picture. Just because it was done en masse after FB suggested it does not take away from it or minimise or cheapen it. It shows people are thinking of those affected and want to show their sympathy and support. I can see why a lot of the thoughts in this article came to mind but disagree with them. If anything it's actually bringing such topics up for discussion that, I think, cheapens and minimises it all. It can cause discouragement and less visible support from people who are only able to show it in such ways for various reasons. By all means make your own decisions on it but such articles as this, more often than not, serve only to have negative effects and not positive ones. I can't believe anyone would use such tragic events as an opportunity for preaching never mind preaching to virtually not show support or sympathy in a roundabout way. If nobody changed their picture and/or wrote statuses (with hashtags that people can search/see especially if they gather pace to show warm messages which can have more positive an impact than you might think) - if nobody did any of that then it would look like the vast majority of people just did not care enough to do anything at all. If people can do something that would have more of a direct impact like make financial contributions somehow that would help BUT they only do the profile picture/status bit THEN there might be a case for complaint but it's great for the people of France to be able to see such strength in numbers supporting them and I can't believe anyone would discourage that in any way, shape or form when they could do with any and all support they can get. Shocking.

  3. Its called "slackerism" popularized by social media largely. I appreciate the way the author made the point, thank you so much for not blasting everyone who did change their profile pic and assuming you were right and had the wisdom the rest of us lack. Your style will allow others to hear you. On my FB wall, many criticize, rant, and then preach their view of the world, terror, privilege, etc.We may have some clues as how to help the families in Paris but we don't seem to have a clue about how to stop the root of this growing problem. Calm down, watch your language choice, and listen.

  4. Nothing would change since it never changed for ages. Vested interest and an urge to dominate the world for personal gains, has resulted into all killings.
    But we cannot sit like spectators so we react through our messages, hashtags and changing profile photos.
    I appreciate the writers view since I go with her feelings.
    Let us stay with peace and enjoy our living with sacred feelings.


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