The Empathy Gap: Why We Mourn for Paris and Brussels, But Not for Beirut And Libya


Empathy

What is an empathy gap? Let me explain.

In the recent attacks in Brussels, the world flocked on social media to offer their love, prayers, and support to Belgium. The same thing happened when Charlie Hebdo was attached by Muslim extremists, spurring the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie to take the Internet by storm.

However, a number of netizens also noticed a seeming great lack of concern for terrorist attacks in other places: Beirut. Lebanon. Baghdad. Yemen.

The pattern for this has become all too predictable. An act of violence happening in one part of the world overshadows that of another attack. Both are no less traumatic, but it seems the horrors of an attack in either an American or European city captures the sympathy of people the world over in ways that an similar atrocity that is no less traumatic and distressing doesn’t seem to do. The bombings in Lebanon or Kenya are no less agonizing than those in Paris or Madrid, but where is “#IAmLebanon”?

https://www.facebook.com/188533647842714/photos/a.188695787826500.54678.188533647842714/1273898749306193/?type=3&theater

Social media has also gotten flack for this imbalance of empathy. Facebook has earned much criticism over the use of their crisis-ready features. If there were safety-checks for Parisian residents, why weren’t there any for Libya nor Tunisia? Where was that feature that allowed users to stripe their profile pictures in Turkey’s or Beirut’s colors? 

Many Twitter users held a similar sentiment that this man summed up so well in two tweets: 

Other people chose to use this statement as a soapbox to discuss racial issues, whether they were relevant or not.

Others used this as a opportunity to lay blame.

Others focused on the contrast between issues abroad and issues in their own backyard.

And issues between Israel and Palestine were further stoked.

And there are some who just want everyone to remember that what the world needs the most right now is empathy.

In the face of all the conflict, chaos, and hate-slinging online there are still some things that are raw, beautiful, and true. Like this Palestinian ballerina in Italy.

https://peridotable.tumblr.com/post/141534327438

Images courtesy of Time and The Guardian
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Jonette

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