Less than 24 hours after the terrorists attacks in Paris on Friday, hastags #PrayForParis and #ParisAttacks were trending world-wide. Facebook and Snapchat arrived on the social media scene equipped with first aid kits filled with Paris-themed filters, allowing social media first responders to show their support for Paris during this tragic time. Facebook created a Paris flag filter for profile pictures and Snapchat made available not one, but TWO, filters people could use to show their support for Parisians.
Fast-forward to today, I’m driving home and I get a call from my boyfriend, Michael. The conversation starts out normal with us sharing how our weekends went, and then it takes an unexpected turn.
Bae: “So you heard what happened in Paris, right? “
Me: “Yea babe, it’s all over social media.”
Bae: “Do you know what happened in Kenya?
Michael goes on to explain his frustration over how much media coverage the attacks in Paris are getting compared to the Kenya massacre that occurred back in April of this year.
Instinctively, I wanted to play the “racist” card because, let’s face it, most things in our society are, but upon second examination, I tried to smooth over my boyfriend’s frustrations with the following explanation: What happened in Paris was more “news worthy” than the Kenya massacre because Paris has a lot of tourists and students studying abroad, thus making the story hit home for a lot more people.
Michael wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so he probed further. “I get that, but why?” That’s when my wheels started to turn.
The reason Paris blew up on social media and was more heavily covered by news outlets is because Paris is more relatable. We are familiar with Paris. We see Paris on TV, it is romanticized and people fantasize about vacationing there. Kenya? What does the average person know about that country? What language do they speak? What’s their currency? Where are they located on the world map?
So is the media wrong for covering the Paris attacks more heavily than they did the Kenya massacre? No. I’m simply blowing the whistle so we can pause, acknowledge and question the news cycle’s selectivity. Expanding your news consumption beyond your social media timeline may help you avoid getting trapped in a First World media bubble that’s unexpectedly popped when terrorism hits a little too close to home.
Keep questioning, media whistle blowers, and #StayWoke.