Foothill Technology High School

Opinion: Debate over Facebook profile pictures trivializes the conversation of equal coverage

Lately it seems as if anytime I go online there is another “scandal.” Whether it’s Starbucks coffee cups or Target’s Christmas sweaters, some newspaper is printing an editorial critiquing a non-issue.

Opinion writer Emma Kolesnik feels that coverage of Facebook's profile pictures takes away from the real issues at hand. Credit: Jenny Chang/The Foothill Dragon Press

Lately, it seems as if anytime I go online there is another “scandal.” Whether it’s Starbucks coffee cups or Target’s Christmas sweaters, some newspaper is printing an editorial critiquing a non-issue.

This is especially the case with the hate over the French flag profile pictures on Facebook. Instead of talking about the real issues we face at such a time, we have fallen into a pointless debate over a feature on Facebook, and it is ridiculous.

I put the flag over my profile picture. I saw it was an option and decided that it expressed my devastation at the terrorist attack. I feel more personal about the French attacks because I have a close relation with the country. I speak French, and it is much easier for me to imagine something happening there. I can relate it to my own life.

Now, based on that last paragraph, numerous articles would say that I am being uneducated, offensive, and believe in white/western superiority. I am more than a little offended that such assumptions are made about me, and my character, based on one action.

I am educated. I know about the atrocities going around all around the world, and my heart goes out to every family that is left devastated. I would argue with anyone that says the French attack is of some greater moral importance than any other terrorist attack.

However, I am able to empathize with French citizens more than Lebanese simply because I know more about French culture and history. Maybe our education curriculum is to blame. However I can, no matter my personal connections, realize the systematic problems taking place.

There is a flaw in our news media, and our world, that we broadcast some attacks on humanity more than others. We all heard about Charlie Hebdo, and there were international calls to action. Yet, Nigeria has never once made headline news in a major newspaper for its terrorist attacks. I have never seen a post on Facebook about Boko Haram.

We recognize terrorism as an issue, yet only respond when a western “first world” country is attacked. This is a huge systematic global problem, but I see very few headlines talking about this. Instead I see headlines discussing Facebook, which is incredulous. This trivializes such an important issue. Talking about things on a more global scale is great, but the context for this should not be Facebook profile pictures.

Supporting something does not make me an ignorant person. Criticizing my support does not do anything to broaden journalistic coverage. It just makes me, and many other people, angry. Making someone angry will not have the effect I would hope articles like this are trying to achieve.

I understand the frustration many feel at the inherent racism; I feel it myself. However, this does not mean we cannot continue to have empathy and feel sadness over France. That is all changing your profile picture represents: shared sadness.

There is power in words, and journalism reports affects us. I do not think we should waste words talking about something that trivializes an important issue. Facebook is a social media network, and a place to share things. It is not worthy of becoming part of the global discussion that needs to be had over prioritizing western lives and the West in the media. The Facebook features are a result of the system, not the cause.

I’m frankly disappointed that people are only talking about this in relation to Facebook. Facebook is polarizing, and it isn’t a place where people feel obligated to consider all sides of a discussion. In fact, it’s very rarely a place of any important discussion.

Some people may say that Facebook is key in getting an issue talked about, but I don’t think that is important. We need to make sure that people are not only talking, but that they are thinking. Do we want the discussion over media and people prioritizing western lives over others to end the way many other Facebook discussions do? With one side angry and the other side laughing at the idiocy of talking about this is in the first place?

There are so many important discussions that need to happen. However, the conversation must be over the real problem, not a minor thing that some company chose to do.

-Emma Kolesnik