Thoughts on Social Media, Natural Disasters and Empathy

So, isn’t it time to do what we have proved to do best – be unnatural – and for once trouble our minds with the effort of being concerned with the life of others? Of emphasizing. Then maybe, just maybe,…

Since the start of the wildfires in the Amazon, I have been thinking heavily about people’s involvement with the world around. Grievingly, with a feeling of disappointment. Not only in humanity, but in myself as a human.

If by any chance, you are unaware of what it is exactly I am writing about: The Amazon, a rainforest responsible for 20% of Earth’s oxygen is on fire. Not only is this event a threat to acres upon acres of threes, but also a loss of many animal species and a danger for the numerous indigenous tribes living in the area.

The increase in the fires compared to previous years is mildly put alarming.

More than just an amazing habitat, the Amazon has a great contribution to the fight against global warming. The flora in the rainforest keeps enormous deposits of carbon, which threaten to end in the atmosphere.

The destruction does not stop here. Many cities have also been affected, as the pollution from the fires distributes in the air.

The whole situation started in early August, however, it became a newsworthy story weeks later.

Even though it took a long time for that news to reach people, quickly the topic became “trendy” on social media. Many people shared photos. Celebrities were discussing the topic. A donation fund was opened.

Highly debated topic coming out of all this was a comparison between people’s involvement in such issues. Most evidently when put against the situation from earlier this year, which happened in Paris with the historical Notre Dame.

The issue: The media and general public were genuinely more concerned for a historical building, rather than the burning lungs of the planet.

I find this very alarming. I don’t want to, in any case, minimize the cultural importance of Notre Dame. However, the two cases are just unscalable.

There are two reasons for my dismay: First is people’s willingness to share such things online just because it is “trendy” and gives them the image of “conscious”. And second, some people’s indifference to such a significant and threatening event.

Talk vs. action

A week ago, I had a very interesting conversation with a UNICEF volunteer about sharing/talking vs. acting and how harmful social media can actually be for causes. It gives people a feeling of contribution when they buzz about a topic. You see, when they share it, they spread awareness about issues in the world. And this is great! More people need to pay attention to important issues in the world. However, if all of us just reshare without an action, how can the issue be resolved?

I have had this in my head for a while. Thinking about the difference between being concerned and acting towards a resolution.

I am not a hypocrite; I know we all have been guilty of the same. That specifically I have been guilty of this.

Why am I writing this then? Spreading a word, instead of finding a solution. Simple. Hearing all about this made ME act. It made me think. Reconsider my own decisions and actions. Change starts with every one of us. Realising that action is needed is the first step towards taking one.

I wanted to remind all of you that social media is a great tool for distributing information. Unfortunately, our society is not yet technologically advanced enough to transform views and likes into water and firefighters. That’s all I am going to say.


What an ugly word. Something even more shocking was the overall lack of acknowledgement of the issue developing in the Amazon. The contrast compared to the case of Notre Dame is drastic. Scary. No wonder so many people did compare the situation.

In April, businessman and fashion brands around the world made hefty donations towards the building’s repair. In August, Facebook groups were trying to grasp the final sum.

When did we start to close our eyes for the world around us so tight that we see only what hits home? I understand it, we cannot carry the suffering of the world on our shoulders. However, this does not mean losing all empathy for it.

I guess it starts in our genes. Our tribe needs to thrive. We cannot afford the luxury of thinking about another one. It is not natural.

Yet, here we are, monogamous, dressed and eating out of a porcelain plate with a metal trident. This feels natural enough.

Many things civilization has brought us conflict with our natural instincts. The one that gives us the biggest trouble is having morals. No, not just talking about them, but practicing.

Here we are, weeks later. The Amazon is still burning, yet my Instagram feed does not reflect that. It is not a trendy topic anymore. I had to google it.

So, isn’t it time to do what we have proved to do best – be unnatural – and for once trouble our minds with the effort of being concerned with the life of others? Of emphasizing. Then maybe, just maybe, taking the extra step of doing something about it. Don’t worry, it will make a great Instagram story.

Thank you for your time, reader! I would love to know what you think about the issue of talk vs. action. So, please, let me know in the comments below!


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