When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake left Nepal devastated on April 25 and weeks later, on May 12, another earthquake struck – this time measured at 7.4 magnitude on the richter scale – our community’s response was quick.
Following the second quake, students working in conjunction with the South Asia Club and Student Service Club organized the “bring a pound to school” event in order to raise awareness and money to support victims.
If nothing else, the event confirmed what we already know: We are willing to help. The money raised – over £2,500 – underlines the compassion and seriousness with which the community responded to the situation.
On the surface, our response was commendable. The “bring a pound to school” initiative was successful in raising funds. It was a special form of fundraising in our school, in that it stands out from the countless bake sales that aren’t consistently effective on the advocacy front. Everyone knew exactly what the cause was and where the money was going to.
In person, we knew exactly how to respond – we were generous and in general very aware of the cause. However, there was a darker side of the community’s reaction: The response on our computer screens. On social media, members of our community lacked basic courtesy and sensitivity. Just a few hours after the fundraising, Facebook users marked themselves “safe”, using a temporary feature on Facebook created in order to help victims in the region alert their friends and family of their safety. By using this tool thousands of miles away from the tragedy, oblivious of the message that was being sent, the true magnitude of tragedy was undermined. Additionally, the successful initiative that took place within our school was undermined as well.
The school’s social media response to the earthquake doesn’t stand alone. In January, after the massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, members of our community took to Facebook to voice their opinions about the tragedy. It soon spiralled into a heated political debate. While it is important to discuss viewpoints and test one’s ideas against others’, there is a time and place. It was insensitive to the fact that the discussion was carelessly taking place in such close proximity to the deaths of the individuals. Just a few hours after the massacre, people all over the world were still mourning the victims, and it is pertinent that we, as a community, put our respect for others as a top priority.
Yes, this Editorial Board believes that people should be able to voice their opinions and open up discussion in a public forum, especially in the light of a catastrophic event. But, it should be done respectfully.
It is a shame that the in-person efforts of most of our community, to raise money for Nepal or offer victims of Charlie Hebdo a chance to mourn, are devalued because certain members of our community failed to recognize how to continue our positive efforts online.
You would make never light of a global tragedy in the hallways, or with your peers, so we urge you, please don’t do it online.