5 People You’ll Find On Social Media After a Tragedy

5 People You'll Find on Social Media After a Tragedy

Last Friday was supposed to be a great night. We were back in New Jersey visiting with family for a long weekend and Tim and I had made plans to have dinner with one of our favorite couples. We were excited to catch up, have an adult night out, and enjoy a great meal with great friends. Just before we got ready to leave, Tim received a text message from his brother: “There’s been a terrorist attack in Paris.” A quick channel change to the evening news confirmed the text and our Facebook and Twitter feeds almost instantly filled with news reports and pictures and hashtags.

After the initial shock, I started to notice a trend in my social media. There were people calling for peace, people demanding retaliation, people demanding the world go silent, just so many people demanding so many things and then amidst the tragedy we started to turn on one another, fighting about who was right in what they were doing on social media. I thought it would be wise to examine, albeit cursory, the five people you’ll find on social media after a tragedy.

5 People You'll Find on Social Media After a Tragedy

The Peaceful Poster

A.J. Muste said “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” In the middle of a horrific tragedy such as the Paris attacks, it’s hard not to want the bloodshed and violence to stop. I think these people who write about peace in the aftermath of these situations realize singing “Kumbaya” and holding hands isn’t going to stop these types of events from happening but rather treating our fellow humans with respect and equality will go a lot further than the isolation and disenfranchisement many experience every day.

The Call to Arms Poster

Being married to a military member and having surrounded myself with other members over the last ten years, it can be a knee jerk reaction to say “Let’s get them!” when violence comes to the doorstep of our house or our neighbors house. I’m married to someone who swore an oath to protect our country, to be the first to respond to all threats, foreign and domestic. We have the technology and the capability, why not use it to stop someone from doing it again. After all, if a snake bit you, you’d attempt to kill it before it did more harm to you, right? It can be frustrating to watch our friends and family suffer in the streets and not restore justice to their name.

The Fearful Poster

Anxiety is an understandable response. Paris has shown that violence of that nature doesn’t just happen on our television screens; it happens in our restaurants and concert halls and sports stadiums, basically it can happen anywhere. How could you not feel fear about leaving the safety of your home if you don’t know when or where the next attack will happen? The lack of control is frightening and the idea of looking over your shoulder or having to be suspicious of your neighbor can simply be too much for some people.

The Political Poster

We live in a globalized society and so much of what happens, both good and bad, is directly related to the decisions of leaders across the globe. We share this one world and it’s naive to think the choices we make here in the United States won’t affect other people. There are so many moving pieces it’s difficult to keep them all just so to prevent a figurative house of cards from collapsing. Many people want to blame policies and years worth of actions for when situations such as the Paris attacks happen and it brings out a lot of second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking in a short amount of time.

The Prayerful Poster

In the light of uncertainty and dispair, some people turn to a higher being. Call it what you will, God, Allah, Yawheh, Buddha, looking for someone or something with control in an uncertain universe is a practice people have been doing for thousand of years. One of the first things I saw trending on social media Friday night was #PrayforParis. It may seem trite but it may be all that a person can muster.

Saturday and Sunday provided ample time for conflicts to develop between these types of people on social media. People were calling for the borders be shut to refugees fleeing war torn-, ISIS controlled- Syria, others were chastising anyone who had adopted the blue, red, and white overlay for their Facebook profile picture calling it an action of inaction, still others will taunting those who sought comfort and guidance in a higher power. To all of those respondents, I want to say “stop”. Social media has changed the way we interact and view the world. The thoughts of my friends and family and the news of the world is happening real-time on my computer and smart phone. It’s an amazing leap. It has allowed us to experience joyous and sorrowful moments as they happen. But it does not need to be the forum where we tear one another down, especially in the midst of a crisis like the one we experienced Friday night.

I’m envious of those people who can so easily turn toward God for comfort and guidance and I wish my first response was more towards peace than it is to retaliation. I can commiserate with those that immediately want to hide themselves and their loved ones away due to fear and anxiety and I can respect the idea that policies need to be adjusted to protect all of our citizens better. We all need to see the other people in the world for what they are, simply people, people who are not seeking to offend you but who are trying to process through a terrible tragedy in a forum that may provide them some support just like you.

How have you been dealing with the events in Paris? 


If you’d like to donate to help the relief effort in Paris, you can reach out to the French Red Cross.

16 Comment

  1. Skye says: Reply

    When I first saw the title, I thought this was going to be a click-baity satire piece. But you are responding to this so thoughtfully and with so much empathy. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      I was a bit worried the title would make people think this was satire but I thought it would catch the attention of more people and give it a fighting chance to have my words and message a better chance of being read. Thanks for taking the chance.

  2. Ashley says: Reply

    Soooo true. And it seems like the gap between the tragedy happening and us turning on each other has gotten so short. I saw the news on Friday, slept through Saturday with a stomach bug, and by the time I returned to social media on sunday morning, the discussion was already about whether/how/when we grieve instead of what we were grieving.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      You’re right…the time it took to start criticizing and fighting was incredibly short. I didn’t pick up on that until you mentioned it.

  3. Such a great post. You are so right.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      Thanks for reading.

  4. Jen says: Reply

    What a thought-provoking post – I sometimes cringe when I log into social media after a tragedy. I’ve learned things about people I thought were friends and have been forced to make some pretty tough decisions in light of some of the incredibly insensitive and racist comments of others. It’s horrible and makes an already devastating situation that much harder to bear.

    I am definitely the peace poster. I served as a US Army medic for 6 years, my husband served 2 tours in Iraq, and after seeing and feeling and hearing the horrors of places I’m privileged not to live in, I know in my heart of hearts that retaliation is never going to solve our problems. Anger is always one of my primary emotions but lately I’m finding it replaced by a deep, deep sadness and longing to bond together to fight evil instead of fracturing ourselves into segregated little hate groups. You hit the nail on the head with your post and I am so glad you chose to write about this!

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      Thank you for reading and for your service.

  5. Ali A says: Reply

    This is spot on! While I’ve been upset & angry over the events in Paris, I tend to take the peaceful route. I shared the video of the guy who played “Imagine’ on the piano in front of the Bataclan. I, like many, shared the peace sign/Eiffel Tower pic. I do want something to be done about this awful terrorist organization, but nothing makes me angrier than seeing people use tragic events to push some kind of political agenda. Great post!

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      The racial and isolation agenda is infuriating. I don’t understand how people can even justify writing these things in a public forum.

  6. Kacy says: Reply

    This is all so true. I’m glad we have social media to voice our concerns, but during times like these I honestly avoid it because it seems like there is no right thing to say, while saying nothing seems wrong too. I definitely pray and hope for peace and understanding, but realize how inadequate that is (and how little my belief system currently supports it) which can lead to fear and anger. It’s a tough road to navigate, for sure. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      It is definitely a difficult road to navigate. I wish we would all realize this and cut one another some slack.

  7. You are right. I have seen many of these myself. Ironically, I too am married to a military man too, but the only post I shared was on the topic of peace. Interesting.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      I just saw a friend comment on FB that this mentality of “either/or” has to end. We can want peace and push for political changes or pray to a higher power and support retaliation. I feel like the need to be decisive is going to send us back to the Middle Ages.

  8. Gotta say I am the prayer type. Such awful events. I’m still in shock.

    1. Jennifer says: Reply

      The information still trickling out is horrifying. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for the people who experienced this first hand.

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