The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers on June 12, 2014 sent the Middle East into an all too familiar state of turmoil. Since the deaths of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, Israelis and Palestinians have executed violent acts of extremism.
As it is for any current event, Facebook has been a sounding board for users’ opinions on the horrific occurrences of the past month. Every day I read posts (“statuses”) condemning one of the parties involved. These viewpoints and the responses to them are rarely presented in a constructive manner. The status will usually be a hateful remark without any sensitivity to the long, complex history behind this conflict. The comments that follow are equally inconsiderate and do not promote any deeper understanding of either perspective.
Social media has been used effectively for social change in the recent past. For example, activism initiated on Facebook and Twitter played a huge part in the Arab Spring. These mediums allow everyday people to have their voice heard across the world on any issue they desire. They also enable us to band together internationally towards a cause. However, when the ability to voice one’s standpoint instantly and uncensored is abused, the consequences can be catastrophic. Many people take advantage of the fact that they can hide behind their computer after posting an offensive remark. They do not take the time to separate their emotion from the problem at hand. Seconds after seeing a terrorist attack performed by Jewish extremists on CNN, someone will post an anti-Israel tweet as if a group of radicals represented an entire people. As I mentioned earlier, the comments in response to such posts may include generalizations of Palestinians and hateful remarks directed towards the initial “tweeter”. This only adds to the conflict, and takes the hostility that started in the Middle East and spreads it across the world for anyone with Wi-Fi to absorb and continue to disseminate.
We should be using social media as a platform to hear the truth from people who are living in these conflicts and come to a greater understanding of what is behind the unrest. It should be utilized to inspire rational, compassionate dialogue. We must realize that whatever our convictions are, the ultimate goal is peace. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have the right to express our beliefs. But we should think longer before we type. We must determine whether the statement we are about to broadcast internationally is going to promote constructive discussion or confusion and resentment.