I wouldn’t venture to say that to change our profile pictures with the French flag is something good or bad. However, there are some aspects that are good to highlight here.
Different digital movements from #JeSuisCharlie in France, the OcuppyWallStreet in the US, the movement Indignados in Spain until the latest #PrayForParis are indeed important objects of study that show different patterns of behavior that goes from the diversification of strategies of activists until the clicktivist or slacktivist that feels identified with this collective anger.
When we change our profile picture we make a link between social media and emotionality. Facebook becomes a site of emotional condensation that lead us to think that ‘that could be me’.
But how beneficial could this be?
Affiliating to a digital network we create a sense of community that besides being an imagined community in the long run it can facilitate the work of advocacy networks. There is a shift and a redefinition of what is public and this could empower us to appropriate (get and produce) a narrative and change us from ‘spectators into actors’.
Although this could remain in being an illusion of having a ‘meaningful impact on the world’ this individual sentiments of belonging could act as a rallying point to encourage participation that are not merely flash demonstrations or seasonal activism.
Besides this it might grow a renewed desire to participate in political decisions, leading to collective action.
Note that I use ‘could’ and ‘might’ because all this efforts also could remain in passive consumers identified with random struggles that lead to a new generation of clicktivists.
But… if all of the other options above are real possibilities, then why not try?