This is a guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA
Megan Garber’s article ‘#PrayForParis: When Empathy Becomes a Meme’, published in The Atlantic (November 16, 2015) has claimed that Paris hashtags and French flag filters on Facebook make for an “act of mass compassion” – a “compassion that has been converted, via the Internet’s alchemy, into political messaging”.
I have absolutely no problems with flag filters on Facebook. Or for that matter, profile-picture revolutions that happen all too often. I’m not, in the least bit indignant about such a competitive exhibitionism of feeling – indexed through a currency of memes and emoticons. In an age of such mass-production of violence (‘terroristic’ or ‘humanitarian’), it is no surprise that the event of mourning must become a symptom of the incompatibility between ‘act’ and ‘response’.
A funereal Facebook must therefore bleed profile pictures, because that seems the only charter of our most intimate emotions. We naturally do not care if Facebook is using the Paris tragedy as a marketing platform, as long as it helps us reclaim a deeply ‘personal’ angst in the face of more-than-a-hundred ‘spectacular’ deaths.