The age of false sincerity

Armstrong Williams | 10/3/2013, 3:57 p.m.
Whenever something, anything bad happens in the world, Facebook and Twitter become ground zero for false compassion. Every Tom, Dick ...
Armstrong Williams

Whenever something, anything bad happens in the world, Facebook and Twitter become ground zero for false compassion. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has to let everyone else know how sorry he feels for (insert tragedy here).

Some events are, indeed, calamities. Even so, I do not for one minute believe that many people are actually “deeply sorry” or that their “hearts go out to the victims” as the latest trending hashtag would have you believe. Before social media, some might make the “those poor people” comment, but most folks would simply talk about the tragedy itself. Those that truly felt sympathy or empathy would donate time, money or goods. Usually that donation was done privately, with the exception of a few loud-mouths who always had to let everyone else know just how generous they were.

Nowadays, anyone with an Internet connection feels the need to let everyone else know just how much they care. “No really guys, I spent two minutes watching the YouTube clip about the Colorado floods and spent 20 seconds updating my status about how sad I am for those poor people. By the way, did you watch the ‘Kardashians’ last night?!”

I find that when you strip away the façade of sincerity, most people honestly do not care; rather, they feel they are supposed to say such things. Sure, everyone quickly thinks the Nairobi Mall incident was awful, but past that, they are just glad it was not them. Take the Rwandan massacre as another example. The United Nations adopted a resolution on Dec. 9, 1948, following World War II and the Holocaust that stated, “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law, which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”

The massacres in Rwanda clearly constituted genocide, so why didn’t the world step in to stop the slaughter? Instead, the world just watched. Where were all the tweeters of the world then? Now plenty of people do truly and deeply care; however, they are not blasting tweets about their empathy, they give.

Earlier I mentioned the loudmouths. I find that they give less than the people who never say a word. Usually we find out from third-party leaks about the silent givers of charity because the leaker believes the donor should be recognized, much to the donor’s chagrin. Unfortunately, social media has created an entire society of loudmouths offering worthless platitudes.

  • “I feel so bad for furloughed employees.”
  • “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Navy shooting.”
  • “My deepest sympathies to the family of Grumpy Cat.”

To turn a classic cliché, when you send your deepest condolences to everyone, you are indifferent to everyone. If you are truly affected by a tragedy, I sincerely doubt you are going to tweet about it.

  • “OMG, flood water rising. #IShouldGetOutOfHere”
  • “Blood and shrapnel everywhere #Bostonbombing #BostonStrong”

Not to make light of disasters, but when catastrophe strikes, your first impulse should not be to reach for your phone. If you are there and unhurt, act to help others. If you are at home, no one cares that you think you need to tell them you care. But maybe we feel the need to tell people we care in order to feel like we care. Perhaps we have become too insensitive to all the violence and suffering in this world and that by saying we feel so and so’s pain, we hope to connect. Yet, research shows that social media tends to have the opposite effect. Facebook usage causes depression and anxiety as we compare the edited and glamorized lives of others to our own. It is the modern way of keeping up with the Joneses.