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home : opinions : commentaries August 27, 2015

10/9/2013 8:45:00 AM
The age of false sincerity
Armstrong Williams

Whenever something, anything  bad happens in the world,  Facebook and Twitter become  ground zero for false compassion.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry  has to let everyone else know  how sorry he feels for *insert  “tragedy” here.

Some events are, indeed,  calamities. Even so, I do not for  one minute believe that many  people are actually “deeply  sorry” or that their “hearts go  out to the victims” as the latest  trending hashtag would have you  believe.

Before social media, some  might make the “those poor  people” comment, but most  folks would simply talk about the  tragedy itself. Those that truly  felt sympathy or empathy would  donate time, money, or goods.  Usually that donation was done  privately other than a few loudmouths  that always had to let  everyone else know just how  generous they were.

Nowadays, anyone with an  internet connection feels the  need to let everyone else know  just how much they care.

“No really guys, I spent 2  minutes watching the YouTube  clip about the Colorado floods,  and spent 20 seconds updating  my status about how sad I am for  those poor people. By the way,  did you watch the Kardashians  last night?!”

I find, that when you strip  away the façade of sincerity,  most people honestly do not  care; rather, they feel they are  supposed to say such things.  Sure, everyone quickly thinks the  Nairobi Mall incident awful, but  past that they are just glad it was  not them. Or take the Rwanda  massacre for example.

The United Nations adopted  a resolution on Dec. 9, 1948 following  World War II and the  Holocaust which stated that  “The Contracting Parties confirm  that genocide, whether committed  in time of peace or in time of  war, is a crime under international  law which they undertake  to prevent and to punish.” The  massacres in Rwanda clearly  constituted genocide, so why  didn’t the world step in to stop  the slaughter? Instead, the world  just watched. Where were all the  tweeters of the world then?

Now plenty of people do truly  and deeply care; however, they  are not blasting tweets about  their empathy, they give.

Earlier I mentioned the loudmouths–I find that they give less  than the people that never say a  word. Usually we find out from  third-party leaks about the silent  givers charity because the leaker  believes the donor should be  recognized, much to the donor’s  chagrin.

Unfortunately, social media  has created an entire society of  loud-mouths offering worthless  platitudes.

I feel so bad for furloughed  employees.

My thoughts and prayers go  out to the victims of the Navy  shooting.

My deepest sympathies to  the family of Grumpy Cat.

To turn a classic cliché–when  you send your deepest condolences  to everyone, you are indifferent  to everyone.

If you are truly affected by a  tragedy, I sincerely doubt you are  going to tweet about it.

OMG, flood water rising.  #IShouldGetOutOfHere

Blood and shrapnel everywhere  #Bostonbombing  #BostonStrong.

Not to make light of disasters,  but when catastrophe  strikes, your first impulse should  not be to reach for your phone. If  you are there and unhurt, act to  help others. If you are at home,  no one cares that you think you  need to tell them you care.

But maybe we feel the need  to tell people we care in order to  feel like we care. Perhaps we  have become too insensitive to  all the violence and suffering in  this world and that by saying we  feel so and so’s pain, we hope to  connect.

Yet, research shows social  media tends to have the opposite  effect.

Facebook usage causes  depression and anxiety as we  compare the edited and glamorized  lives of others to our own. It  is the modern way of keeping up  with the Joneses.

By telling people you care,  you get plenty of Likes and Retweets  and Comments and  Favorites, etc. You tell yourself  that you are simply letting people  know you care and they let you  know that they care that you  care. But that is a delusion. This  is personal validation not actually  caring.

Despite that, social media  has incredible power to help people  help each other in times of  tragedy.

I have a friend that is a certified  disaster relief expert and  journeyman carpenter and has  helped rebuild communities in  New Orleans after Katrina, Haiti,  and is now on his way to Colorado.  He volunteers with an outfit  that makes sure the workers  get food and housing while they  toil, but does not pay nor provide  transportation to and from the  disaster area. He does not have  much money to his name or even  a car, and he never says a word  to his friends about the charity  work he does. He planned on  scrounging up money for a bus  ticket or even hitching to get  there. However, his brother’s  fiancé went on Facebook asking  to help fund my friend’s trip.

He did not ask her to, and  even requested she take the  post down. She refused and  soon thereafter was overwhelmed  by the response. People  gladly gave to the point that  he quickly surpassed the amount  needed for bus fare. It should not  come as a surprise that he  donated the surplus to the families  he is helping.

No one would have known if  not for his future sister-in-law. It  is with humility and true compassion  that my friend approaches  his work. And that humility drives  his friends and family to help not  only him, but people they will  never meet. That is true sincerity  and compassion.

We should all strive to remember Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Social media is a hive of vanity, deceit, and feigned sympathy. When disaster strikes and you are truly moved, give. Sacrifice time, donate money, lend talents, or send supplies. If you feel the need to post a message, use social media to motivate others to help rather than conveying false platitudes or telling everyone how much you are contributing. It is better to say nothing than to speak empty words, and it is better to help others rather than feed your ego and need to be liked. Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 110, 6-7 p. m. and 4-5 a. m., Monday through Friday and S. C WGCV 4-5 p.

Galloway Mosley
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