The Hashtag Samaritan: Practical Caring In The #PrayFor Generation

It happens every time.

Whenever an event involving the loss of innocent lives hits the news, be it a terror attack at the hands of a monster (which is even more horrific when we realize these could and should have been prevented), or from something beyond human control such as a natural disaster, Social Media explodes with both genuine and saccharine love.

There is admittedly much genuine concern and thought-sharing, but with every one person who WILL genuinely #PrayFor…there are likely several more who just jump on the following bandwagon:

"Oh, no! Something happened. I have to show I care before I post that great Mr. Show gif. Let's see…#Prayers For…(uh oh, can't get religious…too intolerant)…#LoveFor…those who…something, something about whatever horror du jour…my heart goes out…blah blah blah…Sad teary face emoji with…flag filter of country or lifestyle over pensive face….there! The world is a better place, but what can I really do to fix this….oh hey, kitten memes!"

I am guilty of this myself. I’ve expressed my sorrow for something, and I even used the iconic #PrayFor once a few incidents back, but began to realize it really doesn’t amount to much unless I, well, actually do something instead of tweeting about it.

I believe prayer works, but I sometimes equate #PrayFor (WhomItMayConcern) sort of like wearing a peace sign around your neck, but not actually doing anything to keep the peace. I saw a person this past week say "atheist prayers" for London after the terror attack at Westminster. Atheist prayers? That's sort of like an Amish striptease. Don't get your hopes up. I think most of us, spiritual or not, feel we have to show we care, otherwise we appear heartless to the mass of people we will never meet. In fact, these comments make us feel better; not so much our social media buds.

Ah, there's the rub. We feel better when we do these things, but is what we're doing actually making anything better?

What about those wonderful flag filters? They come in all nations now, as well as the ever-popular LGBT rainbow. After the Florida nightclub attack, many people I know on social media looked like they were caught in a tube of Life Savers candies.

tragedy du jour

I know many of us don’t have the financial resources or other means of sharing our condolences, but if we’re going to use Social Media to help others, here are some practical ideas:

If you do you #PrayFor….actually be one of those people who will pray, otherwise don’t post this. There are prayer chain message boards out there with people who will #PrayFor and with you.

Instead of placing a flag filter over your face, find an actual fundraising campaign for the victims of the event or place. For example, there's a fund for Fallen Met PC Keith Palmer. Retweet these to help others learn how they can give and, if you can, cough up a few bucks yourself to the cause. I can only give about $5 to $10 here and there, but it's worth more than a filter image.

Forego posting vigils and displays of love for the time and place of a food, clothing or blood drive. Remember how much blood people went out and donated after the 9-11 attacks? That was a pretty cool thing.

Those little cutesy "sad face gestures," "hand hearts," and emojis are a little too cute when trying to be serious about a tragic event or a response to man's inhumanity to man. Save these for less dire things. Heck, I can make a bat signal with my hands, but it's not going to actually summon Batman.

Finally, realize we don't have to respond to everything. If you aren't a politician or world leader, no one is going to call you out for not Tweeting condolences.

The world can be overwhelmingly horrible; with event after event scrolling in front of us, we can start to get hardened to these things. This makes anything we say or do seem less if we do it too often. Sometimes, instead of sending out a #PrayFor… we can back away from the endless scrolls of soul-crushing news and find a place to be the hands and feet needed to do some good.

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