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The social media etiquette guide on how to mourn during the war on terror

The social media etiquette guide on how to mourn during the war on terror

By Georgia Goldsmith

On 13 Friday just after 21:20, Paris was subjected to terror. It was the most devastating attack in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the worst violation in Paris since the Second World War.

Eight terrorists were responsible for the death of 130 people and the injury of at least 350. One week later, as I sit to write this piece 170 people have been taken hostage in Mali in The Radisson Hotel. With cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’ by the gunmen, it would again appear to be a terrorist attack. Where are the Facebook flags for Mali? Where are the ‘PrayforMali’ hashtags? Why is it right to mourn one Nation and not another?

The attack on Paris ignited a rage amongst the British people on Facebook and Twitter. There were profile flags, blaming of refugees, prayers, condemnation of a religion, disgust at the condemnation, a minutes silence and a call to arms.

No voices were as loud as those who took to social media condemning those for their choice of words. It appears that there is etiquette for the way one must mourn that no one has informed me of. The Nation is angry. People say stupid things when they are angry. Words, which can be taken away if spoken, are, once written, there for others to condemn. When did the platform of a social media voice become a podium for others to silence and strangle voices with their own view?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Everybody grieves differently. For the British, France represents a national brother. Only the Brits can hate the French and vice versa. The first King and nation we learn about in history is William the Conqueror and Normandy. The two nations share a tunnel, we share innovation. Granted, we argue often. However, the minute someone tries to attack them we are right on side defending our sibling.

To flag or not to flag. The most controversial topic was the use of the French flag as a profile picture filter. Many people changed it to show solidarity with France. Those who didn’t were not less caring, but perhaps they were brave. These people were often shamed by flag bearers and although a minority screamed back about Beirut and Japan, many stayed silent with their choice.

When researching this article, I asked fellow Facebookers the reason for their choice. I was surprised that either most people would not offer an opinion or opted for an anonymous approach. Only a few days before, the site appeared to be screaming for order and attention. Only one person voiced his opinion publically and for that I am proud. He wrote, ‘building a profile picture is building publicity for a terrorist organisation…’ the writer is 16 and is brave enough to stand by his own opinion without bowing to a trend or a fear.

I changed my profile to a flag. Not because others did it, nor because Facebook told me so. I did it because I as a British person, entrenched in Western culture and empathised when a city I understand in my culture had been violated. I didn’t think of Beirut. I didn’t know of the bombing in Beirut. I didn’t know that the Bombing in Lebanon was the worst in that country since 1990. My knowledge of Beirut is what I have learnt from the news. Should my compassion for France be belittled by my ignorance? When the world showed their support to France through the filter it combined the best and worst of humanity. A week later the lack of attention to Mali showed that we are the subjects of Internet Corporation. What I did out of anger and defiance against terror was manufactured out of a company who saw an opportunity. My action was not wrong; it was human.

A minute’s silence. Some voiced that we should not have a minute for France as we did not have one for Beirut. Others stated that the minutes silence was being abused. Its use is because of the end of the First World War and the silence of the guns. We should not be silent in the face of this war. We should be shouting loudly condemning those who would wish us all dead, voice after voice drowning out each cry of hatred, each act of evil. Personally I believe that those who stated that they would not partake in the minute because of Beirut missed the point. It is your minute. Your choice to think of those who died meaninglessly. All the innocent dead deserve our respect and to not grant respect to Parisians because others did not globally become recognised is an insult to those who are mourning.

The England vs France football match will likely go down in history as one of defiance in the face of danger. A stadium lit with the French colours, thousands singing the French National anthem and a minutes’ silence only interrupted by the whirring of a security helicopter hovering above. Is this true emotion, or is this a façade? Now that France has been targeted are we secretly terrified that we are next?

Instead of bending to fear we are defiantly in denial. Even writing this article has made me afraid. For the first time in my life, after seeing the wave of terror in Paris and now the attack in Mali, I am scared. For the first time I had that dreadful thought of ‘We are not winning here’. Perhaps I am not alone. Perhaps that is why the world has united in the best way that we can. Whether it was right to wave the French flag, to have a minute’s silence, to sing La Marseillaise. To shun a person who is responding to terror with defiance is a mechanism of humanity. We all wish to be right. If we all accept the others faults we can combine to create a force of hope to be reckoned with.

As I type this last sentence I receive a notification. The hostage situation in Mali is at an end. There are currently 27 dead. Yet, there is no sign of the Malian flag.

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