When Terrorism is Trending

On November 13, 2015, the world was shocked and saddened to hear of the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, France. Throughout the capital, native Parisians and tourists were enjoying their Friday night when the beautiful city erupted into a bloody scene. In six different locations, terrorists completed coordinated attacks and killed over 100 people.

The world was shocked- and rightly so. These innocent individuals were out simply enjoying a nice dinner or a soccer match, when terrorists suddenly ended their lives in an instant.

On social media, the hashtag #prayforparis was quickly being used by the millions after the attack was made known. In fact, within just one day of the Paris attacks, an astounding 70 million individuals on Instagram used the hashtag.  On Pinterest, photos of Paris and the Eiffel Tower could be seen in much greater quantities than usual. On Facebook, many had their profile pictures streaked with blue, white, and red- the colors of the flag of Paris. Companies, such as Amazon, pledged their solidarity with France with a message on their website.

One would think that with all of these outbursts of “sympathy” and “solidarity” on social media that this was the only deadly terrorist attack that occurred all year. That, however, is not the case. Earlier that year, in April, terrorists entered a Kenyan university and killed 147 individuals (more than those who died in the Paris attack). This Kenyan attack too, however, was not the only deadly terrorist attacks. There were many more (The Burkina Faso luxury hotel attack was another, for example).

But did we really hear about these attacks other than maybe on the news? Take the Kenyan university attack, for instance. Were there any #prayforkenya hashtags being used by tens of millions? Were there pins of Kenya flooding individual’s homepages on Pinterest? Were Facebook profile pictures streaked in black, red, and green- the colors of the flag of Kenya? Did large companies pledge their solidarity with Kenya?


But why is that? If 147 university students in the United States or even in another westernized European country were brutally murdered while studying, wouldn’t there be an outcry? A disgust at the cruelty of the terrorists for murdering so many innocent people who were simply studying at school? Wouldn’t there maybe even be trending hashtags all over social media and possibly profile color options to show support or solidarity for the country and the lives who were lost at the hands of terrorists?


While it would be very hard to say that trending hashtags, flag profile pictures, or any other social media reaction shows genuine care for those who lives were lost, (Who knows- they may, in fact, just be a “peer pressure” type response where one feels the need to copy them because everyone else is) they still do cause one to wonder why some deaths cause more of a reaction than others.

Yes, native Parisians’ lives and the tourist’s lives who were killed the night of the Paris attacks do matter- and matter greatly. But so do the lives of the hundreds of others who die at the hands of terrorists as well. There were and are multiple terrorist attacks that occur, and yet these lives who were lost do not seem to cause as much of a reaction and stir outside of maybe the newsroom. When did we stop caring for lives other than the ones we could relate more to? Just because someone who terrorists attack and kill lives in America or a westernized European country and is more relatable to us does not mean that their lives should cause more of an emotional reaction. The lives of those dying every single day at the hands of terrorists in the Middle East and Africa are just as valuable even though they may look different, speak different, dress different, and live differently. They are still people who had lives, dreams, and goals.

Cristina Goff is a Contributor to The Daily Runner