As the people of France continue their valiant attempts at making sense of the senseless violence that has claimed the lives of at least 129, much of the world has taken to social media to voice and show their support. From peace symbols emblazoned with the Eiffel Tower to moving quotes about light overcoming darkness, all platforms have been inundated by outpourings of grief, empathy, and a promise for a better tomorrow. Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous signs of solidarity has been the Facebook temporary profile picture filter, which superimposes a French flag atop users’ photos.
And while a time of international mourning should never be manipulated into a tragedy contest, many have noted that Facebook’s decision to introduce not only this filter, but also the safety check-in for users in Europe, was noticeably limited to this most recent incident, despite the fact that just the day before, a pair of bombings in Beirut killed 43 and wounded well over 200. No Lebanese flag, however, has been introduced. There was also no Facebook filter option for Kenya when an attack back in April killed 147 and injured at least 79 others.
Of course, this is not to say that showing support for the victims of the Paris attack via Facebook is a form of selective solidarity — but the lack of availability and visibility provided by not only Facebook, but mainstream media as well is an issue that has yet to be adequately addressed.
So in an attempt to create a homegrown solution to this apparent lack of, say, equal empathy, Vietnam based designer Hubert Southall is sending out a call to all graphic designers and art directors “to cover the filter void” that has ignited controversy across the Facebook user base.
According to a recent press release, Southall has offered to add a Lebanon, Iraq, or Kenya flag filter to anyone who sends him their profile picture on Facebook. And to address growing demand, the artist is asking other designers to join him.
“I am struggling to keep up,” he said. “I’ve had requests from thousands of people from over 30 countries. People want a way to support without exclusion. I think it’d be great if all designers offer their services on Facebook to help out. Adding a filter over someone’s picture takes about 10 seconds to do.”
So while changing your profile picture may not be changing the world, in moments when clicktivism is all that’s available to you, it’s reassuring to know that you can at least do that much in a more global, widely encompassing way.