Why I’m Not Turning My Facebook Photo Blue, White & Red.

Via Jamie Khoo
on Nov 14, 2015
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paris eiffel tower

For more: Show *this* to all those saying “Muslims are the problem.”

Symbols and unity are beautiful, elephriends. The author is urging, merely, that we can slow down.

Some of the most hateful and bigoted comments we’ve received today have been from folks, understandably angry, with red-white-blue profile pics. There’s nothing wrong with them, as a symbol of unity and grief and love. But we can do more: and we must. See Jamie’s article below to see what she’s actually urging, as well as the video. ~ ed.

Original Editor’s note. I read Jamie’s letter, below, earlier today, and asked Jamie if I might share it with you dear elephant readers. We then had the ensuing conversation, which I think underlines her point: there’s nothing wrong with changing your profile picture, of course…but:

Waylon: I haven’t changed my profile for the same reason, more or less. We need to actually walk our talk, not just post colored pictures. Elephant has received so many bigoted comments from hateful people with their photos in red, white and blue today. It means less than nothing, often.

Jamie: Exactly. I understand some people have their reasons for it and it is meaningful to them. I’m not even saying don’t do it. The point is to be mindful of why you’re doing it.

Waylon: Yes, that’s why I said often. It’s not bad, it can mean something, but if it’s just a speedy quick social media tip of the hat, well, better to slow down and feel this tragedy and walk in kindness more fully after doing so.  ~ Ed.

I won’t be adding the French flag filter to my Facebook profile photo.

I’m also not writing condolence and prayer messages on my Facebook feed, tagged with #PrayforParis.

It is not because I don’t care, or that I don’t feel the profound shock and sadness for what has happened.

In fact, it’s because I find it so absolutely awful that I’ve chosen not to engage in this way. I feel that just changing my photo, writing a few words and a hashtag on social media minimizes (even cheapens) the tremendous, horrific reality of what is going on all around the world, not just in Paris. From suffering arises another trendy social media gimmick, another way for us to show the world how “clued in” and “with it” we are.

Why do we change our photos, really? To show solidarity? But what does that even mean and how does a temporary Facebook photo do it? I’m not trying to be provocative, insulting or offensive toward people who have changed their photos. I understand that people have of their own reasons for doing so. In saying this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate or that it’s all and only a bad thing.

I’m saying: can we please just be a little bit more mindful as to what we’re churning out on our feeds?

Personally, my own Facebook settings are highly private, so only my friends see my posts. For me to change my profile photo or make a statement will only be seen by my friends; I don’t think I need to prove my stance, solidarity or affiliations among people I call my friends. The people I know in Paris—or any other place that is hit by tragedy—are in my thoughts and in my messages; I just don’t feel the need to broadcast this to the world. I’ve found ways to reach out to them directly to find out how they are, and offer support in whatever way they need now. This is my way of responding to a conflict that I feel is more meaningful than merely changing my photo. Again, just because my profile pic remains un-filtered, doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I’m not engaged.

A large part of my work now involves reading about and researching the violence that is implicit in our everyday lives, the insiduous harm that is done to people just like you and me in every corner of the world—in first or third worlds, in peaceful cities or conflict-ridden states, to every class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and age.

Every day, as I sit with the reality of all this violence, I wonder what it would feel like to have a truly equal, peaceful, respectful, loving world; and how we can begin to make that happen in our own small sleepy villages or heaving city centres, wherever we call home and whatever may be happening there.

I believe that’s the question we should be asking every single day if we really want to do something to show solidarity and support for France, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, the refugees, Syria, Palestine, the Yazidi community, the Nigerian girls, the shootings in the U.S., the Nepal earthquake victims, the women in your neighbourhood who risk assault every time they leave their homes, the young girls destroying their bodies trying to fit into the world.

Let me be clear again that I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your photo, or post a prayer for Paris (or anywhere else). By all means do. But please don’t let it stop at that. Please don’t just get swept up in a social media frenzy and do it because it “looks good” or “feels” like the right thing to do. Pause for a moment just to ask what it means to you to filter your pictures and hashtag your posts: What do you hope to achieve with it and will you be able to achieve it fully in this way? Would you also change your photo if there had been an option for Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, Palestine…or any other country in the world that suffered just as incredible a loss, even if you’d never heard of the place?

Why or why not?

What else could you be doing—whether or not the news is filled with distressing headlines—that would be (more) meaningful, bring about tangible support, in your world right now?

Please let those millions of lives lost in conflict be worth more than a quickie photo change or an easy hashtagged prayer.

Let them be the reason you do something different and really kind today, to share support and effect change for even a single person.


For more:  5 Must-Read Quotes regarding the Tragedy in France.

How to slow down, and why:

Author: Jamie Khoo

Editor: Waylon Lewis

Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr


About Jamie Khoo

Jamie has loved writing and words from the moment she started to read. After getting her MA in English, she went on to pursue a career in writing and has had her work published in magazines such as Elle Malaysia and Time Out Kuala Lumpur. Sick of being told by mass media and society what "beautiful" is or isn't, Jamie founded the website a beauty full mind to challenge conventional beauty ideals and create new definitions and conversations about what beauty can mean for all of us today. Say hello to her on Facebook or drop her an email at [email protected].


293 Responses to “Why I’m Not Turning My Facebook Photo Blue, White & Red.”

  1. ChrisC says:

    She says "The people I know in Paris…..are in my thoughts and in my messages; I just don’t feel the need to broadcast this to the world. I’ve found ways to reach out to them directly to find out how they are…".

    If we knew people in Paris – we would reach out to them directly; its the people we don't know to whom we feel we are saying 'our thoughts are with you at this dark time'. We are trying to connect with them indirectly, the only way we can, to show that we (in our masses) care. It is NOT motivated by 'the need to broadcast this to the world'. That's a little bit cynical from someone who promotes a 'beauty full mind.' Sorry, but that smug moral high ground that sleights the motivations of others is ever so slightly offensive….

  2. Meg says:

    I agree with Maria. I'm not sure why there are people who have taken such a stance against the profile picture changes. At the very least, it doesn't harm anything. I know people in Paris who say that they have taken comfort in the solidarity shown by the people who change their profile pictures. I understand if you don't want to change your picture – so don't. I didn't think anything of it when I saw unchanged profile pictures. But don't assume that you know the stance or actions of every person who changes their picture, just as I don't assume you're uncaring and selfish because you don't.

  3. @JohnGubba says:

    I am sorry but in my humble oinion this article is intellectual claptrap and totaly misses the point.
    I believe it is inportant for ordinary people to show solidarity and take part in the process of trying to win the hearts and minds of the vulnerable who are brainwashed by the aggressors into becoming terrorists.
    Far better to do this than demand an eye for an eye like the governments and politicians who are too quick to fuel a never ending spiral of violence.
    By spreading the meassge of peace, love and solidarity we are doing something positive rather than lethargicly standing back in an intellectual air of superiority. Personally I believe in the power of the people and only by standing together and making our feelings known can we ever hope to win this so called war on terror. We won't win it by dropping bombs and killing people. That battle we have already lost.

  4. Paul says:

    I totally agree with jamie khoo. Also I don't think Facebook would have been inundated with Russian flag filtered profile pictures had the Paris events happened in Moscow. And of course people who have a personal connection to a country or an event are in a different position from everyone else when something like this happens. My question goes out to all those people who don't have that connection and modified their profile picture anyway. I do believe people are sincere but at the same time Facebook does create a platform where it is just as easy to 'take a stand' as it is to write "happy birthday" to someone you don't even keep in touch with.

  5. Hannah says:

    There have been many people killed and we are currently living out circumstances where many more are likely to die soon…. And we are discussing a Facebook profile picture? No disrespect to anyone’s opinion, but I think maybe we are all distracting ourselves from the bigger picture here. We should be focusing on how we can heal the world not something as relatively insignificant as a profile picture.

  6. Rosie says:

    When I first read the title of the article, I got so excited because that is how exactly I felt. People follow whatever tragedies are put in front of them creating more of it. It's sad and very scary what is happening. I don't even want to travel anymore because you never know where all hell is going to break loose. All I know is what you put your attention to, it expands. It doesn't add to the healing of the planet. It does the opposite. People don't believe in peace or love. That's why we have war and terror to begin with. It's the law of attraction in action. There are more facts to know and understand for me to go and change my picture. I rather not put all of my energy and attention into tragedies.

  7. Bonita Snodgrass says:

    I respect your choice to take time, considering the tragedy and your reaction to it. However I strongly disagree with your opinion of others who have chosen to be supportive in the manner you find objectionable. The choice to show solidarity is an individual right. My feelings dictated my response, both coloring my profile pics and sharing significant memes. My Friends who are French, each contacted me, expressing gratitude that I’d identified myself as someone they could talk to about it. My Like minded Liberal Family and Friends had no issue with my choices, in fact the two people who, like you had negative feelings about this subject just happened to be politically my polar opposites. Their responses sang the praise of Trumps proposed wall and decried the acceptance of ANY emigrants. Perhaps if you’d allowed consideration of the reasons many of us made the change, your article would have left a better taste in my mouth?

  8. Dawn says:

    I'm right there with ya Jamie! I think understand completely what you're saying: do it if YOU FEEL compelled to do so. Please do not do it because everyone of your friends has. Do not do it because you think others will like you better if you do.

    Remember that whole ice bucket challenge bullshit?? "I challenge Jamie to throw a bucket of ice water (on a hot day) over her head. If she doesn't, she'll have to give X amount of money to this charity." Or commercials that say, "Buy X amount and we'll donate to [insert charity name here]!!" And then there's my personal fav, "Donate and WE WILL GIVE YOU a t-shirt/blanket/bag so you can show off to your friends that you care."

    ~the cynical optimist

    • Paul says:

      Absolutely agree with you! The whole ice bucket thing was such a load of rubbish! People only did it because of what their friends thought. I was given such a hard time when I refused to do it. And what a waste of water!

  9. Ryan says:

    All these comments arguing abut Facebook profile pictures… "Imagine" there's no Facebook. Would we have all this disagreement? Does this matter one way or another?

    This morning i wasn't really feeling the French filter. It bothered me. I was going to message my wife to explain how I felt. then I realized that's not what the world or anyone in it needs- More of my wisdom bestowed upon them.

    Instead I wrote to my wife and daughter and told them I loved them. I then listed the many things about them and my life with them that I am grateful for.

    I did this(which is pretty out of character for me) for every person effected by this tragedy. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I tried to be a little nicer to everybody I interacted with today. I'm trying to put just a little less of what I believe is behind these tragedies into the world…And a little more of what I believe we need into it.

    Arguing over intentions and pictures will not change anything…guaranteed. Do what you need to do, but please do something kind and from your heart. Something unrelated to social media. Some people have expressed they have nothing to give. As a human being you always have something to give that can change the world. If we all changed ourselves just a tiny bit every time something like this happened, we would be moving in the right direction. Not only in spite of these terrible people and events, but because of them.


  10. vae says:

    I remember when the floods hit Boulder and people from around the country and around the world were posting caring statements. I thought it was kind and a good reminder of the connectedness we feel to each other. Maybe it was more kind the people who volunteered or the people who donated needed goods but I was affected by those caring statements and I imagine that people in Paris may feel similarly. Not everyone can volunteer or donate or whatever more significant change this article is suggesting. I understand not wanting to become complacent after performing a symbolic act of caring and resisting symbolic actions so one can focus on other kinds of actions. But I think the author is saying something more. I don't mind piggy backing—if something happens that wakes us up we might as well use it. This article seems to be piggy backing on the tragedy in Paris to promote her own agenda of taking seriously the violence that exists in our communities. Somehow the Parisian attacks didn't wake me up to this. The violence in my community is connected more to domestic violence, poverty and mental illness than the ideological war that is happening at the international level.

  11. Voice of Reason says:

    Disappointed in this article. Doing something because it feels right can be perfect. What is the author doing – reading, researching and wondering about world peace? Doesn't sound particularly active to me. The flag is a symbol of a group of people, usually a nation, standing together. We do feel closer to people who share a similar history, culture, language or values. Why wouldn't we? Nothing wrong with a symbolic gesture of any kind to say 'here we are; we stand together'. Vive la France

  12. Emer says:

    The word from Paris is that people appreciate the support, Charlie Hebdo ask for no prayers as Paris has enough religion. The support is phenomenal because France took on the dominant religion in the dark days of history and stand for a secular state. The other possible flags you mention are not of countries that back its citizens equally hence the support for Paris and the greater the horror. All loss of life is comparably tragic but this is not what the support is about.

  13. Freya says:

    For someone to tell me that I've made a horrific event 'cheaper' due to my choice of profile picture is absolutely absurd. I don't judge whether you do or don't, people have their reasons. But to slate millions of strangers over their choice of SOCIAL MEDIA PICTURE is ridiculous.
    You're trying to say youre better than us for having a view which is pointless. Many people choose that filter to show a united front against extremists and extremists alone.
    To write a post about this is the tacky thing…CRITICIZING peoples choice of both mourning and support for those in need all for the sake of recognition as a blogger is absolute insanity.
    Why do some people just have to make themselves look different in this world?! To prove theyre above others, there is no real reason for that profile picture to you than standing out.

  14. vam says:

    Dear, If you don’t feel like doing it then DON’T DO IT. Easy as that. Respect other people’s point of view. It’s their way of showing their sadness and solidarity to the good people affected by that tragic event. Everyone has the right to post whatever they want, it’s their choice. It’s just a matter of “mind your own business” thing I guess. No hate, just sayin.

  15. Lee Woolls says:

    This is about showing solidarity. a unification of multi-cultures spanning the globe not under any single flag except that of the people that suffered this time. Why assume it's just an empty gesture when it may be just a symbol of unity?

    This article is very judgemental and I along with my family and many others, care greatly and feel hollow following events in Paris. If this is the single easiest thing we can do, better than doing nothing, surely?

    Vive La France

  16. Elaine says:

    So much judgement in such horrific times.

    We feel helpless and all experience grief in diverse ways and as such respond to it as individuals. There is no script for pain and grief. Let us honour the freedom to speak/write as we feel, not condemn!

  17. Aire says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is important to see, and understand, more than one point of view on all matters. I have felt similarly, but didn’t put it into words. Honestly, I’m not sure I completely understand why I am feeling a need to not change my profile pic or hashtag a “prayer”. Thanks again. Well written.

  18. Andrew says:

    – Love this article and it mirrored everything I felt yesterday. However I should explain the reason why I have become the worst form of role model and why I do not share my views on how people choose to grieve.

    The profile picture gesture really is just the latest meager offering of the Living Room Revolution. It's an epidemic that's infected the western world. I have to be honest, I hurt today, but not nearly in the way I should. I've become desensitized to the point that I'm unable to create that dark world in my mind, the one which once allowed me to vividly place myself in the midst of such terror. It was the ability to be scared that drove my to desire to make a difference. Alas, I've given up, no longer feeling the need to update my profile picture in support nor actually doing anything at all. I've become skeptical, cynical, resigned to the fact that we are actually powerless in the face of man's worst atrocities. Perhaps updating an FB profile pic is the final glimmer of hope for those people. Maybe they are still connected in a way that I was once upon a time.

    I think I'd refer to that as hope and although I have none left to share, I certainly don't want to live in a world without any at all. So post your pictures, prayer for peace, hope for better, sometimes that's all we have left to do.

  19. Ewelly says:

    I changed my profile picture because one of my best friends who lives in Paris and she is french was in the area where that happened. I asked for prayers for her and her friends who was there. And I would do the same if that would happen in any other country and there would be my family or friends.

  20. Dan says:

    She did not offer any clear alternative actions or next steps to address the terrorist attacks. 75% of the article was disapproval about people changing a picture, yet there are no links to any articles/further reading to better understand ISIS or what happened in Beirut/Baghdad.

  21. savannah leishman says:

    Praying/showing symbols of support and doing something tangible ie. donating are not mutually exclusive. This author is casting judgement on how many of us are so hurt and try to show support in any way we can. Let's not cast such judgement when we need to embrace love.

  22. patcadigan says:

    Hey,if you don't want to add the French flage to your Facebook profile pic,then don't. But don't you think it's kind of mean to disparage the gesture? Back in the days when 100% of people with HIV developed AIDS and died of it,many of us wore red ribbons. Wearing the ribbons didn't cure anything those ribbons demonstrated that the vast majority of us cared about what was happening,and I believe that show of awareness helped drive research and development that means HIV is no longer an absolute death sentence.

    I have close friends who live in Paris. They understand the gesture and they appreciate it. They also know that I'm in my early 60s and I'm fighting terminal cancer. There is very little I can do except to say publicly, "I care that this happened, I'm not indifferent."

    Adding the French flag to your Facebook profile pic isn't the only way to do that, and I don't assume indifference in the people who haven't. But I'm a little tired of passive-aggressive 'compassion-bullying.' Most people *are* good at heart; they want to do something to help others and most of the time, they can do little more than to show their awareness, and when possible, donate money or goods. Articles like this only give people the impression that demonstrating their sympathy and empathy is not just meaningless but unwelcome. I'm sure that isn't the author's intention but ultimately, that's how it comes off.

    Personally, I'd rather live in a world where people show they care.

  23. CrashBender says:

    You don't need to change your profile picture, you don't need to explain why you didn't. If anyone cares then they are obviously missing the point. The point is to show unity in how we can at a glance, from scrolling through our posts, confirm that most people NEED to express in some way. That events that occurred are so blasphemous that this sort of behavior is obvious. I do understand that some young and ignorant teens may pose and take a selfie with duck-lips and put the france flag as a filter on it just because it is "trending" but come on, even if that happens don't waste time thinking about that.

  24. chloe says:

    hmm ok, great, but couldn't you keep doing all the great things you say you're doing, as well as ALSO supporting the cause with symbols?! One does not preclude the other. I think you were just trying to sound catchy and you ended up broadcasting this article anyway. Same bullsh*t in my humble opinion. Coloring a profile with blue, white and red is no disservice, and doesn't stop ppl from working actively into changing things for the better, whether as citizens, boters or humanitarians. Whether it was intended or not on your part, this letter has a misplaced judgemental and contradictory side to it that isn't as helpful as assumed.

  25. Jettha says:

    Gee!! Looks like many of you missed the point Jamie Khoo had made; she wasn’t against nor for the colors on your photos. She’s saying we need to do more than just that and being more mindful and do more wherever you may be. Just a show of solidarity by a simple change of color means nothing at all if you don’t actually do more for humanity whether near or far! Start being kind with your family, relatives, neighbors and friends! We don’t colors for that!

  26. Marko says:

    If the author of the article does not feel like changing her avatar , so be it . Why write an article about it . Just stay in the shadows , This article does not just miss the mark , it seeks importance . In other words: Dear people dont offer prayers or light candles to show your solidarity , just leave it IF you cant do more ! Thumbs down to this article . !!

  27. Kate says:

    I think you got it all wrong! It means respect for those free souls lost in the most horrid way And their family. I have to show how I feel! And this is the best way for many of us far away and heart broken..

  28. krista says:

    Appreciate your point of view but I do find it insensitive to judge how others are trying to make sense of this horrible tragedy – what purpose is adding this negativity? I don't understand why the need to do this – to judge the way others are dealing with this – sure it is a little gesture but why spend the time to add more negativity in this? your words are not helping this healing process

  29. Steven Wilson says:

    What has happened in France is a slap in the face of all man kind, it is a slap in the face of every country and every ruler of such. That being said we need to pray for peace in this world. How is it that we can watch one group of terroist kill inncocent people, because we do not believe the wat they do, and we still let corruption run rampent in our democratic society? Political correctness is a smoke screen for media to pick and chose what stories they want to promote, its the way they can turn their agenda into a cancer that over throws ever logical way of thinking. Peaceful peope do not go and kill innocent people because they do not believe the way they do or in the god they do. Let us turn the future generations back to respecting other beliefs even if it is not your own. Teach the future generations that honesty will always be the best policy, respect and love for every human will stop the needless killings and the bloodshed of more innocent people. May God's love and mercy be with the nation of France and may we all live to see the day that no more lives will be lost to political correctness.

  30. Mike says:

    Don’t over complicate things, its just a gesture that Facebook put into place. It does not matter if you choose to or not no one cares, the fact you have written a whole article about “the color of my facebook photo” just shows you have too much time on your hands. It’s a quick 2 second change “if you wish too”. Nothing more nothing less

  31. Cath says:

    I can’t comment on this article because the premise is flawed.

    You are guilty of the fallacy of relative privation:

    “The fallacy of relative privation, or appeal to bigger problems, is an informal fallacy in which an opponent’s arguments about issues are minimized, deemed unimportant, or dismissed on the grounds that more important topics and issues exist, regardless of whether these problems are relevant to the question at hand or not.

    A well-known example of this fallacy is the response “but there are children starving in Africa”, with the implication that any issue less serious is not worthy of discussion.”

  32. justin says:

    I truly think you missed the point as to why so many people changed their profile picture. Unity. To stand as one people as opposed to divided nations. It has nothing to do with proving anything to anybody. It is a sign of a more united society as a whole. A sign that these kind of acts and hatred and disregard for human life do not go unnoticed, are not accepted, and absolutely can not continue to happen. The blue, white, and red represent more than just the events that occurred in France; but a uniting of nations, and the people of those nations, and the governments of those nations, and the realization that our world has a serious problem with the idea of radical Islam and terrorism in general. It does not mean that people do not know other things that happened the day before, or any other tragic events that happen on a seemingly daily basis in different parts of the world It means that this event struck close to home. This event occurred at the places that we all visit on a daily and weekly basis, restaurants, sporting events, and a concert; all places we consider to be safe havens, and safe places that we can feel comfortable taking our families and our children too. This movement reaches far beyond just the colors of the flag, and honestly am somewhat surprised you as well as many others do not get that fact. This is a movement toward love, and wanting to do whatever it takes to push this movement forward, and overtake or at least suppress the idea that is radicalism, hate, and overall disregard for human life, regardless of race or nationality or religion.

  33. savannah leishman says:

    Praying/showing symbols of support and doing something tangible ie. donating are not mutually exclusive. This author is casting judgement on how many of us are so hurt and try to show support in any way we can. Let's not cast such judgement when we need to embrace love.

  34. Pat says:

    Yeah….It's so easy to tell others how to express themselves when a tragic thing happens. Most of these horrible things happen, in my opinion, because people don't embrace each other, with all their differences, so we only continue those horrendous actions on another level when we refuse to accept how we express each other's individual grief. Comparing how a person reacts to one tragedy versus another is not acceptance either but judgement. Instead of telling each other how to grieve, let's each do what we can. Maybe we can practice acceptance and love for a few minutes today.

  35. Louis says:

    Taking this position is analogous to not hugging a family member of the deceased at a funeral and expressing your condolences because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s not profound enough because it’s just a repetitive act. You’re overthinking.

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