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One downside I see is that I think it cheapens as well what we could do and quickly moves on from the incident. I also feel like a lot is done simply for personal attention.
When someone posts a photo of the Eiffel Tower and some comment about supporting Paris, they feel like they've "done something" and when the primary thing they're seeing about the incident is the same photo and slogan, instead of real details, the aftermath, etc. they move on quickly. I'm very sure that some of the people I've seen posting things about this are purely doing it for the attention as well, similar to when someone passes away and suddenly they have a million best friends morning their loss.
In saying this, some things like a temporary Facebook profile also give people a very quick and easy way to show support as one single massive entity.. but how helpful is this? Is it like wishing your dad happy birthday or happy Father's Day when he isn't even on Facebook?
Are there examples we can learn from of where some tragedy occurred and those around the world were genuinely able to help in a direct or indirect way? Art/design has been powerful throughout history, and we perhaps need to find the modern way about it.
In the past, there have been many logos, graphics, signs, slogans, and photographs attached to tragic events. I don't always agree with it, but it's not new.
I think one thing we can do is design better ways to inform the public on the event in detail beyond the sensationalist news sites/channels to promote knowledge, thoughtfulness and true empathy over biases, political agendas, and shallow acts of instant gratification.
Perhaps there could be a website that collects people's personal stories on the event. So that when one of us on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean says that we give our sympathy, we don't just say it because we read the Facebook sidebar, reshared an image, and did the "temporary" profile picture change, but because we read someone's experience, and truly meant it.
Good points Laurens! This probably is just a modern representation of something humans have always done, relative to whatever art/design/graphics/symbolism/etc was available.
Okay, I think that personal stories idea is actually brilliant. We have social media where people can share these things though some are closed (Facebook) versus open (Twitter, blogs) but discoverability is quite hard. I also feel like those directly involved in tragic incidents often themselves don't write much because they're still in the middle of it, it's too painful, etc. When mainstream media interviews people who were involved we sometimes see those stories spread. One story currently spreading is the man who sacrificed himself in Beirut (IIRC) to lessen the damage of a suicide bomber.
There are even things that exist ala Storify that can be used for this purpose.
For me is something like this: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3payqf
Do not underestimate the power of awareness and grief-en-masse. Seeing others sympathize can go a long way in aiding the recovery of the people who were directly affected.
It creates a "market" of sorts, that can prompt powers-that-be to take action. Whether that's a brand willing to increase awareness of themselves by setting up a fund-raiser for the affected, or a psychiatrist that reaches out to offer free consults for those affected through social channels.
The point there, is that the separate needs/wants (the need for help, the want to contribute) can be connected by a middle man.
And awareness draws such middle-men in.
So by all means.
.edit: I personally don't even care if a brand slaps their brand-name all over an initiative with good results: help is needed. I wouldn't complain if my ambulance was cheaper but had "RED BULL" all over the side. Especially well known brands, to be honest. Their "star-power" might enable them to get more money through to the actual cause.
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