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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Social Media Reacts To The Paris Terrorist Attacks

Social media is playing an important role for people who want to express themselves after the Paris attacks. 

Social media has been playing an important role for people who want to express support for victims and share safety information after the Paris terrorist attacks happened on Friday.

Many people are changing their profile pictures on social media as a way to mourn the victims in the attack and show love and support. Most of them are overlaying the French flag on their profile picture in memory of the huge tragedy.

Helen Zhao, a USC student, changed her profile picture with a French flag overlay on Facebook even though she normally doesn’t change her profile picture to reflect current events.

“I normally don’t and haven’t changed my profile picture when this kind of thing happens,“ Helen said. “Even though I saw so many people do it, I just didn’t feel compelled to do it.”

However, this heartbreaking terrorist attack motivated her to take some action to help. 

“But with the Paris attacks, I really sympathize with that helplessness because it’s very unexpected,” Helen said. “I want to show that I stand with you as a human in that way.”

Some people don’t want to show support and love only for France. They are overlaying flags from several countries on their social media profile pictures to raise awareness of other tragedies going on as well.

Kelley Moody, a Chapman University student, has an overlay of five different flags including France, Japan (earthquake in 2011), Iraq (funeral bombing on Nov. 7), Mexico (earthquake on Nov. 13) and Peru (suicide bombing on Nov. 12) on her Facebook profile picture. Kelley said she wanted to recognize all countries that suffered similar tragedies instead of focusing only on France because there are a lot of different things going on that many people do not know about.

“There’s a lot that happens in a lot of these underdeveloped nations on a daily basis that we choose to ignore,” Kelley said. “And I hope that through this social media controversy that does lead to a little bit change on awareness that people are gonna take the time to be a little bit more aware of what’s happening outside of just our keystone nations.”

Facebook also added a new feature after the Paris terrorism attacks happened – the safe mark. People who were in Paris when the attacks happened can mark themselves as safe on Facebook. Friends and family can then check the safety status of their loved ones.

USC senior student Liana Wertman was in Paris in last fall, and she has a lot of friends who are there now. She said she was able to check through all the safe marks her friends made.

“It’s a nice thing for people to do for the first few hours after the attacks,” Liana said. “Seeing people check they are safe is very relieving.”

And now, one of the most shared pictures on social media is the image of Eiffel Tower light up in France’s colors, showing people’s mourning for the Paris attacks.

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