Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Facebook Filters -- Helpful or Damaging?

Facebook Filter Supporting November 2015 Paris Attacks
Facebook, Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg
As tragedy strikes, like the Paris massacre in 2015, Facebook, Inc. gives you the opportunity to apply a filter to your profile picture to express solidarity. Although Mark Zuckerberg crafted this idea with great intention, the option to apply a simple filter could be halting our willingness to give. A study from the University of British Colombia revealed that "if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly on social media, it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on."

Although support is much appreciated, in times like these we need to be doing more than applying an effect on a photo. There were many other options that many of us most likely didn't consider. For example, donations to the Red Cross were being made. Food supplies and letters were also sent to Paris during this time.  

Another detrimental effect of the Facebook filter is potential favoritism or lack thereof. Countries are bombed, attacked, and invaded every week.. Children are thrown into a string of sex trafficking, are killed, and tortured. Those effected by tragedy on a regular basis may feel unappreciated or even forgotten if they don't get Zuckerberg's support. Needless to say, it may be time to get rid of the Facebook filter. Now this isn't to say the filter is all bad, however, we need to be giving in times such as the Paris bombings.

Actress Kara Brown's tweet after the Paris attacks rings true with many across the world: "Putting a filter on your Facebook picture doesn't help anyone in Paris." She then followed by explaining, "It certainly doesn't hurt but it rings hollow. It helps people seem concerned in the most passive way possible."

If applying the Facebook filter costed you $5, would you still do it?


  1. As I read through this I came to a realization that this may come off, as you phrase it, "damaging". I could argue that it may not be specifically damaging, but merely just does not necessarily help the issue. If one were to really desire to help the severe situation, they could take the same 30 seconds it took to change their profile picture and give to a charity supporting France instead.

    I am not proud to say that I am one of those people who simply changed their profile picture to the filter because it felt like doing the right thing. When really, most just do it because it appears to others that it is the right thing. This only shows that you did 'the right thing' just for appearance and come off like a good person.

    I don't believe anyone's intentions on using this filter were to be damaging, nor were they bad intentions. However, I think anyone that really wants to help the cause and do the right thing would do it when nobody is looking or can see it.

  2. I would agree with Alyssa that these filters are not "damaging" per se. I believe that people really do benefit from seeing solidarity, and Facebook filters do help us do that. I would hope that the people of France saw these filters not as insults but as signs that the rest of the world saw their pain and sympathized. Solidarity, even in Internet Age, is an important part of the human experience.

    On the other hand, the French flag filters which were common after the Paris attack can be seen as problematic in other ways. First, that the attack in Paris was far from the only or even the most deadly attack of the time period. For example, 40 were killed in an ISIS attack in Beirut only one day before the Paris attack. People die every day in the Middle East in similar incidents and yet those people go almost entirely unnoticed. This could speak to a racial issue, or it could simply be evidence of a strong "us and them" mentality which has been growing worldwide in the past several years. Western countries seem to come together during times of hardship while simultaneously funding wars in Middle Eastern nations. Why is it that the Paris attacks had such a strong and widespread effect? Why was there no Lebanese flag filter?

    Like a lot of internet activism, I believe people have genuinely good intentions. They just don't understand that their actions are at best ineffective and at worst potentially harmful. Just like internet petitions, this type of campaign is becoming increasingly common and therefore decreasingly effective. The more internet petitions that circulate, the less seriously anyone takes them, no matter how many signatures they get. The more people participate in this relatively lazy variety of activism, the less they will be willing to get their hands dirty with real volunteer work.

    The Paris filter did what it was meant to do. It showed that the world stood with Paris, supported the citizens, and felt their pain. The campaign just happened to have a few unintended consequences and implications.