Last summer, I sat in a one-bedroom house in Salt, Jordan, just outside Amman. I listened as two young boys and their mother explained why they had left Syria. They looked at me and shared how the Syrian army had bombed their house. While I recorded this on my brand-new iPhone and MacBook, they made me coffee. A week later, I sat in a small apartment in Salt while five children told me their family’s story. Their neighbor had jumped over the garden wall to tell their parents that soldiers were knifing the village. The family drove to Jordan with nothing but the clothes on their backs. As I heard this story, the children played and carried on as if this were a normal childhood.
When I heard of the violence in Paris, I was horrified. My roommate and I turned on the news to get the latest updates. Our hearts were, and still are, hurting for all of these innocent victims.
What happened next was what I feared most: the backlash. Before knowing the facts, social media blew up with anti-Islam posts. Every platform — from Facebook to Twitter to Yik Yak — was overwhelmed with Islamophobic posts.
I am saddened most at the anti-refugee posts and comments. I heard these escape stories firsthand. These are people trying to escape these horrific acts, which they have been living with for five years now. These horrors are not shocking to them anymore.
The next morning I awoke to see a new Facebook profile filter that showed support for Paris. Almost everyone I knew changed their profile photos. This felt shortsighted to me, because it changes nothing.
As a millennial, I have grown up in the social-media age. Hashtag activism has brought many issues to light around the country. My generation forgets, however, that it takes more.
Changing a picture does nothing. Every profile will be changed back within days, and the media will move on to the next issue.
What will not change is the situation for millions worldwide. There will still be bombs and attacks we do not hear about. More and more refugees will flee. Many Americans will overlook these things, if they hear about them at all.
That is the missing component of the issue. We forget to have the discussion of how to fight ISIL without condemning a religion or wanting to close the borders for asylum-seekers. We forget our obligation as human beings to do more for these desperate people.
I condemn the acts of ISIL without a second thought. I also ask that my generation remember to do more. We are in the position to do more. Work to find a solution to the crisis. Help those in need right now. There are millions of them. Do more than change your profile picture. That is the challenge.
Emily Grobelny, of Minneapolis, is a student at the University of Minnesota.