New Hub opinion piece: Can we empathise without the help of social media?

Article originally appeared here 

With images of Syrian refugees circulating online, why do we only care so much when it falls under a trending topic, or a hashtag?

The images of Syrian refugees break my heart. But again, how unfortunate that we care about this when it is blasted all over our newsfeeds. A picture of a little boy washed up on the shores seems to be what makes people care. This war has been going on for ages, many, many videos and pictures circulating online prior to recent ones, have been a reminder as to what is happening, but we all go about our daily lives.

Fair enough, if it is not in your country it does not affect you, why add another burden onto your shoulders of something you can’t control? If you have this mindset, then you are the problem.

People are people at the end of the day, regardless from your country or not. You can’t save everyone, but caring about matters simply before they start becoming a trending topic is something that not only shows your humanity, but doesn’t annoy people who have been trying to get you to care. If all it takes is a trending image, which is an image of death and desperation for a better life, then it’s time to reflect.

It really is a conflicting matter. Part of me is happy that people are starting to notice, to empathise and be compassionate humans.

The other part makes me annoyed, and dislike social media, for being how we bring our natural emotions – empathy and understanding – to the surface. By no means am I trying to be one of those ‘Oh my god I cared about it first’ because that’s not my intention at all. It does get to a point where you become less passionate about things because you realise that others around you simply do not care.

I think we all need to take a moment – stop trying to be the image of peace on our social media, because there is a lot more that needs to be done than just sharing an image online with a caption that clearly shows a lack of understanding.

I’ve had conversations with people who do have the mindset that they tend to stay away from matters outside of their own country. Each to their own, but it is very hard for me to look at these people in the same way. What you are essentially saying is that you are happy living your life in the bubble that is your war free, first world country, whilst others continue to suffer. I can understand that people like that would find my way of thinking annoying -that I think i’m going to change the world by talking about matters. But that is my sole aim, and it always has been. To report on things that I have the advantage of talking about – not just using my social media to like pictures of funny animals or a friend bringing new life into the world, but to discuss everything else that is happening outside of our bubble.

Syria should not be the poster image for all that is wrong in the world. Syria should be thought of as a country that once was beautiful, and can be again. With the simple act of people caring more than the realms of social media. I don’t want most of the news that I find out about to be because of someone who was moaning about immigrants one day, then posting something about how sad it is that Syrian refugees are risking their lives trying to get into other countries.

Again, it’s a difficult topic – at least it is being spoken about. But, I would rather it wasn’t from the likes of those people. I would rather an image of a young boy whose life has come to an end from escaping a country that people didn’t seem interested in, whilst it was being bombed down, not be circulated online. It shows disrespect for ‘immigrants’ lives, and shows the value of that life only in death. There is a saying that relates to this, something along the lines of we care the most when people have died, but little for when they lived. I think this image is a clear indication of that. Why mourn for the dead, when you did little whilst they were alive?

It doesn’t take much. Not all of us can donate, and lets face it, it is difficult to decide where to allocate your money with charities being a business in this day and age. Little things, like sharing information in this digital world, or talking about it with others is a way of helping, but not only because the hashtag is trending on twitter. An Icelandic writer created a Facebook plea, and more than 12,000 people showed their support in her plea towards her country taking in more refugees. This does not sound like a huge amount, but when you consider the population of Iceland being a little over 300,000, it speaks volumes. This is my plea for my country to do the same.

You will never know the full extent of war, if you care only when those who experienced it have died. It is important to remember that being a refugee is not a choice. I can only hope that more countries open their borders to refugees, and that people begin to value life beyond social media trending topics.


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