The Unempathetic Social Media Activists


Jean-Luc’s family is murdered. Jean-Luc’s friends, social network, family, acquitances, colleagues–in fact even those who didn’t know Jean-Luc offer their condolences they are not only sympathetic but also empathetic to how it must feel for Jean-Luc. In my culture when some-one passes away people go over to their home and gather to offer their condolences – there are people who will start prepping meals for fellow mourners, those who make sure there is enough firewood, refreshments – basically it because a communal show of empathy, global family village if you will. Now there is then one person who sees mourners rushing and making their way to Jean-Luc’s house and he shouts ‘Hang on! how dare you be in such a rush to make a show of empathy to Jean-Luc and the death of his family? Remember how Thabo’s family in South Africa was also killed in January, and don’t forget how Nkiru’s family who drowned in that flood in March – why are you now talking about Jean-Luc? I don’t remember this many people even caring.’ Then a section of the crowd stops in their tracks, stand next to and start agreeing with this person ‘oh yes valid point’  ‘I don’t remember this many people rushing to dress in black. Thabo and Nkiru’s families matter just as much as Jean-Luc’ they mutter, so they stand outside Jean-Luc’s home giving lengthy narratives supporting their decisions on how they will not be going inside to show their respect for the dead. They like the pigs in Animal Farm declare ALL DEATHS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS and the world should stop with this unfair treatment, TREAT ALL DEATHS EQUALLY.

Now they are not wrong in highlighting how unfair the media and the world at large reacts to certain tragedies their reaction is actually paved on a path of great intent. However in their Social Activist  quest  they also are unknowingly being the most asinine and unempathetic.

Why? They are rioting outside a home full of mourners on the day of the death, they have not allowed any time to pass, they are dishing out lengthy diatribes, sharing links in support of their decisions and chanting ‘Hell No I won’t mourn with you, I am going to remind you of Nkiru, Thabo, Hassan and everyone else in this world, if we are mourning today, it is for every single death’. Waving ALL DEATH MATTERS placards. They are sympathetic that Jean-Luc has lost his family however they also want people to remember all the other deaths and stood so much in their ground that their words attack and hurt those who are gathered at Jean-Luc’s. Their words insinuating that as all deaths matter, they are not going to wear black to this particular family’s funeral, actually they are not attending the funeral at all, they are sorry it happened to Jean-Luca but they are no part of this mourning frenzy.  The irony of their actions however is their actions AFTER Nkiru and Thabo’s tragedies these people had gone on to post selfies, ‘faux-deep quotes’, swiped left more times in an hour on Tindr, debated on the portrayal of the black family on Empire – basically life moved on 5 minutes after their paying condolences UNTIL Jean-Luc’s tragedy.

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Yes maybe I am high on my soapbox, because I accept and truly believe that all earth deserves our prayers, all tragedies should be treated equally, today however I am figuratively dressed up in black, sad, wondering how Jean-Luc and his family are coping, wondering how it all came to this, even though I have never met Jean-Luc for three hours am sitting here on my sofa, tying my black headscarf making my way to Jean-Luc’s home, shedding tears because today, if only for today I sit next to Jean-Luc and say ‘My sincerest condolences to everyone who lost their loved ones, a colleague, a friend on Friday 13th November 2015. Pray for Paris’.

If ever some-one around you is going through something (death, illness, breakup, their birthday, their wedding etc) resist the urge to shift focus to you, it is about them, their moment, their joy, their grief, their pain, their love. Sometimes it is our duty as empathetic humans to understand feelings, give out hugs, share in the moments and that be enough.



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