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Sombre reminder in wake of the devastating Paris attacks

By Derek Lim

#prayforparis: A hashtag borne out of a collective moral outrage elucidated by a global populace in the wake of the devastating Paris attacks just a few hours ago. The physical hurt caused by these attacks can be contextualised very locally, represented by the many unfortunate deaths of innocents. But let us not forget the transcendental powers such attacks have — the mental and psychological effects of these terror acts cannot be suppressed by national borders or tangible demarcations.

The worried mother in China praying for her son’s safety in the University of Paris, the distraught father wishing he had travelled to Paris to watch a soccer game between France and Germany with his children — all for a peace of mind.

In a world where borders are rapidly dissolving, social media has stepped up to be the primary mediating mechanism that patches the distance between space and place.

The power of social media can never be understated in an event like this. With Facebook rolling out their ‘Safety Check’ feature, those indirectly or directly affected can now seek reassurance or help with just a click of a button. #PorteOuverte (‘Open door’ in French) has been trending on Twitter, initiated by French Twitter users to cater to those in need of a safe haven or a place to run to.

Those directly affected update their families and friends via Facebook status updates or Twitter posts. Those indirectly affected seek reassurance and the latest news from the same medium. Indeed, we have much to be thankful for in this age of social media.

However, not only does social media allow for a reconciliation of space between individuals, it also has the added ability of consolidating the whole world’s attention, compassion or anger into a single space. This is where we have to be careful of the transcendental effects of such attacks. With the advent of social media, these effects will be amplified tenfold, and fear and anger will travel farther and faster than it ever has before.

This is where I feel a timely reminder is in store — let us not, in our grief and anger, wield Instagram, Facebook or Twitter like a weapon. Enough damage has been done, let us not add to it with insensitive comments, racist slurs, or stereotypical insults directed at religions.

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that’Martin Luther King Jr.

Let us, in these dark times, see social media as a guardian, a harbinger of light, hope and humanity. And let us keep it to that. There is no need for combating evil with hate or for accusatory and racist posts of anger.

This is not a matter of race, religion, gender or ethnicity — the heinousness of the attacks render this a fight between evil and humanity, good and bad. Let us not even bring race, religion or ethnicity into the equation. By doing so, we will only incite more anger and hate all around the world, leading to even more fissures along different lines. This will only ensure the continuity of these attacks, and will perpetuate a vicious cycle that does not end.

Let the pain, anger and hatred end here. Let us, in our fight for justice, seek only to repair what has been lost and damaged. Social media should only be used as a medium for help, not a conduit to express frustration and hatred. Let us not, in our understandable grief, incite even more hate around the world. Frankly, there has been enough hate going around to last us a lifetime.

Let us be careful what we post on social media. Let us be tactful, respectful and wise in the wake of this tragedy. Social media is powerful, yes, but let us use it for the right reasons. So, let us #prayforparis.