I see humans, not humanity – was the first thing I read when browsing my Facebook feed Saturday morning. It took me a few minutes to grasp what happened next door – since Paris is only a 2.5 hour flight from Vienna. Then the trending hashtags, French flag profile photo banners and Paris peace signs swamped the web. People were quick to show unity, to reach out, to feel empathy with those hurting, others were even quicker to condemn their actions because it´s not honest and heartfelt in their opinion, only what social media tells you to share, say and do.
What´s wrong, what´s right?! I don´t know. No one does, really.
As a woman who was born and raised in Austria, I always felt save. Terror attacks didn´t happen next door. This tragedy we witnessed not even 72 hours ago, was always something that usually happened far away. In countries whose citizens had a different mindset, a different culture, religion and customs. As long as you didn´t travel there, you were save. I remember people calling me crazy when I travelled to India years ago – since that´s so close to those countries – and I admit, I felt uneasy flying over Afghanistan at that time.
But since we all share the same planet, isn´t every attack practically next door?
What happened this time was closer though. It happened in Europe within the European Union. That´s a first for us Europeans. But wait, what happened in Beirut? Why was no one as shocked about the victims there, than they were about the attacks in Paris? Can terror and tragedy really be old news?
What is the LRA doing for years, if not centuries, now in Africa? Why is no one changing their profile photo to raise awareness for abducted African kids and child slavery? Why does no one #prayforsudan? Why is no one claiming #jesuisbeirut?
I adore the community that comes with using social media but in times like these, I feel helpless and angry and lost. Does it really count to participate in a viral hashtag or repost a popular image when you call the slow cashier a lazy bitch while typing away on your smartphone (yes, I just witnessed that today)?
What this world needs is a group hug indeed! I think we have to show empathy and humanity every day in our daily lives to help educate those who naively spread hatred because they weren´t taught differently and show appreciation by helping out with the little things. Smile at an exhausted cashier the next time you wait in line, help the elderly neighbor with her grocery bags, treat the coworker you don´t get along with that well to a coffee tomorrow, check in with friends living abroad more regularly and not only when tragedy occurs.
Do the hard thing for once, get out of your comfort zone and step up when needed. Not when your Facebook feed tells you to.
And don´t forget to count your blessings, cut yourself some slack if you happen to have a bad day or two and unplug from the media frenzy from time to time. As a citizen of a Western country it´s okay to not feel guilty, to stop listening to the noise and enjoy your life, even in times like these. Meet friends for dinner, go to see that band playing live in your city, learn about new cultures in foreign places or visit a new city in your home country. Do what you please and be happy you have the freedom to do so.
After all, if we would live in fear from now on, the bad guys won. And as far as I see it, that´s not an option.