Do refugees have a place in the paradoxical social media scene?
Online abuse against refugees is not something to which we can turn our backs to – it’s a serious concern
The world of social media is a complicated one. Many in Middle East credit it with the Arab uprisings of 2011 and while the revolts may not have produced democracy, they have surely produced hundreds of thousands of refugees. In some cases, the same tool used for freedom is now being used to hurl abuse at refugees.
Online abuse against refugees is not something to which we can turn our backs to – it’s a serious concern. Although Palestinian refugees have existed in the region, and around the world, for decades, they have already adapted and assimilated into their communities. For decades, communities have not had to deal with the notion of “new” refugees in the same magnitude we are seeing now.
Online abuse against refugees is not something to which we can turn our backs to – it’s a serious concernYara al-Wazir
People around the world now have to deal with this notion, and online hatred is not making anything easier for those who have already lost their homes and belongings. The danger with this online hate is that it instigates more hate, and instils a culture of rejection of foreigners. This xenophobic rhetoric should come to an end now.
Online negativity towards the situation does not only impact the refugees from a psychological standpoint, but also puts their lives in danger.
Disappointingly, public criticism of racist rhetoric on social media is not substantial enough for social media giants to react. It seems that Germany has felt the issue of refugees hit home - literally. As well as announcing that they are expecting 800,000 refugees to make their way to Germany in the coming year, this week the German government issued a statement calling on Facebook to act to limit racist posts.
While the public may not always be able to provoke social media giants to change their ways, the public can bring together all the positive influencers and inspire them to collaborate. After a photograph of a Palestinian-Syrian refugee carrying his sleeping daughter over his shoulder while he sold pens in Beirut’s heat went viral, the public responded. The strong solidarity inspired the photographer to set up a crowd-fund and raise over $5,000 in the first 30 minutes. The campaign has now reached over $70,000 in just 24 hours. What is most inspiring is that the refugee photographed, Abdul, doesn’t want to keep all the money to himself, but he wants to share it with other refugees in need.
The two different sides of how social media has decided to deal with the refugee crisis show the true dichotomy that exists within society. On the one hand, a society’s natural instinct is to be protective its land and reject foreign intrusion. It is like the human body when it experiences a foreign organism in the bloodstream. On the other hand, there are those who realize that not only must we adapt to the changes that the political world has imposed on us, but rather help these organisms thrive.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir