To filter or not filter with the French tricolour? That is the question

In the wake of the recent Parisian attack, Facebook asked users whether they would like to run their profile picture through a filter of the French flag. Many have chosen to do so as a show of support for those caught up in a truly unpleasant situation. Others have not done this and the reasons given are many and varied.

Choosing to stick a filter on your profile picture in solidarity with Paris does not act as rock solid proof you are unmoved by all other tragedies. Equally, choosing not to filter your picture does not mean you are callous, uncaring or heartless. At the end of the day, a filter on a Facebook picture does not belie deeper facets of your character. It is, of course, down to individuals as to whether they see value in this or not. It is up to each person to decide whether they feel this does amount to a show of solidarity and is actually worth doing or not. Equally, some may not wish to single out this event for particular sympathy, that is fine too.

What is a little tiresome, however, are the pompous posts effectively ticking everyone off one way or the other (1). There are those implying people who filter their pictures are basically racist, caring only for white Western European tragedies. There are those in response suggesting unfiltered profile pictures mean the owner is probably an ISIS sympathiser. Has it really come this? Everyone can recognise the Paris attacks were a tragedy (irrespective of whether there are other tragic things happening in the world too). Why are we then turning our ire on each other for failing, or choosing, to filter a flipping picture on Facebook? Truly we are monsters for such an inconsequential decision!

If you choose not to filter your picture, that is fine. I really don’t think you’re a monster. But please don’t lecture those of us who do on other tragedies across the world as though you are the only person who reads the news or cares about these things. It is also worth noting, if you are going to make a point about this, be sure that you don’t act the hypocrite. Nobody wants to hear you make the ‘other world tragedies’ argument whilst you simultaneously put up posts about your latest sector strike without ever flagging up strike details in any other sector. That might leave you open to the charge of caring about yourself but not so much about others in equally important jobs.

At the same time, if you choose to filter your photo I don’t think this automatically makes you a caring sort. Anybody can click a button and not really think about what they are doing. Please don’t lecture those who don’t as though you have cornered the market on appropriate forms of mourning and solidarity. Many people who haven’t filtered their pictures are regularly involved in active service and voluntary work within their communities and further afield. A filtered picture alone is not a measure of our humanity.

To filter or not to filter, that is the question. The real test of our underlying humanity is not so much whether we filter our Facebook picture or not, it lies more clearly in how we respond to those who choose differently.


  1. Yes, I note the irony. Please don’t write in about it.