Back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about the impact of social media on the political and social climate, specifically during the Arab Spring of 2011. I argued that after tens of thousands of Middle Eastern citizens in countries like Egypt and Syria took to social media to organize protests against oppressive regimes, Facebook could save the world. I argued that social media was a platform for voices otherwise silenced. Now, I'm not so sure. Now, there’s too much noise.
With the recent attacks in Paris, everyone with a profile picture is suddenly an expert on how to stop ISIS, how to deal with Syrian refugees, how to properly honor victims of terrorist attacks. I recently read an article that congratulated me on my “corporate white supremacy” after changing my profile picture to the colors of the French flag. Apparently I am not mourning the loss of life properly. Apparently I am an enemy worth fighting, as if we don’t have enough of those already.
In times of war, our fear and anger have a tendency to mask our humanity. I’ll be the first to admit that I have strong opinions on the world’s most recent crises and I cringe when I see fear drive the political climate at home and abroad. And I won’t claim that these opinions never make it to my Facebook profile, but I try to do so in the hopes of starting a logical and respectful dialogue. Unfortunately, the recent vitriol and polarization of social media, mainly among Americans, is enough to make me close my account forever. Suddenly everyone has a soapbox, but most people don’t have the research or facts to do much but ramble up there ad naseum. I’ve read misguided opinions that we should drop nuclear weapons on an entire portion of the world. I’ve listened to interview clips from so-called experts comparing Islam to Nazism. I’ve seen memes so racist, they would make a Klansman blush. But, most disturbingly, I’ve seen people that I know and love spew hate-filled and angry rants with anyone who has the gall to disagree with their opinions.
The beauty of our freedoms as Americans is that we have the right to disagree with one another. We have the right to uphold different values and opinions. Hell, we even have the right to be complete assholes to each other, but that doesn’t mean we should, because we also have a responsibility to care for one another. And if you want to stop a terrorist regime bent on hate, then we’re not going to do it with more hate. Or as a divided front. ISIS wants us to attack each other, they want us to make each other the enemy. They want us to hate Syrian refugees, to steer our focus towards our own differences, so that we’re not paying attention before they strike again.
So I ask that we all take a moment and consider the future we want for our children. I want you to stop before you reply to a random person’s comment on a Facebook page and pretend that you’re talking with your mom, your best friend, your coworker. You’re talking to another human being, very often on the subject of other human beings. And regardless of where you stand on the Syrian refugee issue, please remember that 99.9% of these people are risking their lives to escape our common enemy, many of whom have small, hungry, and traumatized children in tow. So don’t call them monsters or terrorists hell-bent on killing us. I want you to remember the reason we’re all so opinionated on the matter: because when attacks like what happened in Paris, in Beirut, in the Egyptian skies occur, it means that hate is winning. And I, for one, would prefer the alternative. Perhaps we should start at home.