Let’s Talk Turkey: The Empathy Gap and Social Media

empathy gap turkey terrorist attack

It’s easy to get bogged down with the minutiae of everyday life, especially on social media. There’s a seemingly endless stream of cat videos to watch, photos to meme-ify and listicles to scan. Keeping up with world events can be viewed as an added burden, especially when you only logged onto Facebook to like pictures of your cousin’s new baby.

But when tragedy strikes, the news breaks through. Suddenly, the internet is overwhelmed with thoughts and prayers, colored filters and musings on the state of the world. However, when it comes to social media, not all news is equal. After the attacks in Paris, the outpouring of support overwhelmed my Facebook feed. After the recent terrorism in Turkey….the difference was radical. It was obvious: in the casual world of social media, we have a profound empathy gap. So I found myself wondering– why?

turkey empathy gap social media

My Facebook circle is relatively large and filled with many educated, diverse and compassionate folks. I have friends who were born and live in all corners of the globe. So when the posts on Turkey did begin to filter in, they all seemed to pose the same question: Why is the reaction to these tragedies so different?

The losses suffered in Turkey  were dramatic. Istanbul is a world city, a tourist destination, and this act of terrorism occurred in an international airport.

The attack killed people in a region that we in the west do not often think about in human terms. 239 people were injured and 43 killed and we, me included, hit retweet, clucked our tongues and moved onto the next thing in the ever-moving news cycle.

On the internet, and on social media, in particular, the world moves at a breakneck pace. Facebook and more recently, Instagram, are tinkering around with their algorithms trying to serve up the content they think we want to see. So when this most recent terrorist attack didn’t quite catch on. [God, I can’t believe that’s a phrase that I’m actually able to write.] the newsfeed moved on. Empathy and knowledge are contagious on social media, and in the days since the attacks, and the dissolution of the event on my newsfeed, it’s apparent that we didn’t feel enough.

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