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The Problem With #PrayFor(Insertterroristattackhere) Hashtags

04/08/2016 17:43 | Updated 04 August 2016

In the late hours of Wednesday night one woman died and five others were injured in a horrific stabbing in central London.

Police have made clear that it is unlikely to be a terrorist attack, but instead motivated by what officers have described as "mental health issues".

Even after these facts were known, #PrayForLondon was top UK trend on Twitter.

I don't have a problem with these types of hashtags per se. I recognise they are a way for people to express their grief over tragic events and show solidarity the victims.

After the Nice attack last month I wrote a piece chronicling some of these.

#JeSuisCharlie. #JeSuisParis. #JeSuisBruxelles. #JeSuisOrlando. #JeSuisIstanbul. #JeSuisBaghdad. #JeSuisBangladesh. #JeSuisNice.

Collectively these hashtags represent at least 623 dead and 1,248 injured, spread across six countries over just the last 19 months.

What also became apparent after the Nice attack was the beginnings of a fatigue. An unfortunate sign of the times - yet altogether human - response to not just the constantly rising death toll from terror attacks, but also of the futility of tweeting a hashtag or changing your Facebook profile picture to match the colours of the flag of the country impacted the most.

The #PrayForLondon is a hashtag in this vein too far.

"What is wrong with the world😢 #PrayForLondon"

"My heart is sad #PrayForLondon 💜"

"this makes me so sad #PrayForLondon"

What happened last night was without doubt a tragedy.

Somewhere a family is mourning the loss of a loved one and five others will be frantic with worry hoping their loved one will pull through from whatever injuries they sustained.

But if we start a hashtag for every time someone gets murdered in the street then Twitter will just become (if it hasn't already) a medium primarily for nothing but virtue signalling.

Making sure as many people in your social media circles can see you are "thinking about victims" feels like nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Also, how many of these people actually do pray? And, as an atheist, even if you do, what will it achieve?

For events like the Nice attack, how about we make sure the top trend is the name of the medical centre you can donate blood or the charity that will help counsel those involved deal with the aftermath instead?

Social media is fantastic. You can instantly connect with billions of people, share stories and become close friends with people you may never meet face-to-face in your entire life.

But it also makes it far too easy to make you convince yourself you're doing something worthy.

Tweeting a #PrayFor or changing your Facebook profile picture achieves nothing.

If you really want to make a difference to the lives of someone affected by a terrorist attack there are loads of options.

Donate to a charity, send some clothes to a shelter, start a support group, start a blog and propose some solutions, hell, if you're really incensed join the French Foreign legion and take the fight to the terrorists (think long and hard about that last one).

And if you can't do any of these things well - that's absolutely fine.

You can't help everyone and there is nothing wrong with that.

Just be nice to the people who you can.

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