Adding the French flag to Facebook pictures

Vrinda Chauhan, Business Editor

If you have a Facebook account, you have probably observed the French flag film over the profile pictures of many users. In light of recent tragedies in Paris, Facebook started a new campaign in order to spread awareness. Users were able to change their profile pictures to have a translucent French flag filter over it. While Facebook surely means well, this has turned a depressing massacre into the latest fad, removing from the situation the respectful solemnity it rightfully deserves.

In handling such a touchy issue, Facebook tried its best to allow users to somehow express their sentiments regarding the issue. The French flag feature caught on like wildfire. Pretty soon, almost every other post was someone changing their profile picture. However, soon it became obvious that the flag was doing more harm than good in pertinence to how people responded to the incident.

When people simply update their profile pictures, it diverts attention from the issue at hand. This feature instead allowed users to bring attention to themselves, using the tragedies as a guise. People were able to re-share their profile pictures, all while appearing sympathetic, sensitive, and worldly.

As a result, the issue itself does not take center stage. It is important for people to consider the attack in a serious context, but the new feature makes the event more of a trend than a tragedy. In fact,users do not even have to be educated on what happened in Paris. Everyone is able to change their profile pictures to connect themselves to an incident, thus allowing what happened to be a tool for attention-seekers everywhere.

The filter also fails to take any substantive action– I cannot imagine a Parisian victim of the attack logging on to Facebook to feel comforted, or even affected by the change of profile pictures. Their fate will not be altered by the slightest. While the sentiment may be real, this filter allows the public to express it in almost a lazy way.

The Facebook profile picture filter works best in theory. In reality, it is only used to fuel a Facebook trend. Facebook would be better off charging for the filter and then donating that money to the families affected by the incident. This would ensure that only people who truly cared to express their sympathy would support it, and it would also allow substantial action that would tackle the problem.