Grief Journal

The World Needs More Than Your Hashtag

Written by Annie Rothe

Sunday morning we woke to awful news. News distinct from the typical awful; different from learning how many people voted for which underwhelming candidate, what celebrity is in hot water, or a looming threat from our household cleaners. We woke to the news that (yet another) mass-shooting killed or seriously injured over a hundred unsuspecting, undeserving human beings. Another episode in the list. Mentally unstable shooters, terrorist shooters. Hate crimes, custody disputes. Political motivations, suicidal tendencies. Another episode no matter how you categorize it.

I see Facebook and Instagram lighting up with “we pray for Orlando” updates. And yes, of course we do. For the all the lives this will destroy. For all the pain and rebuilding ahead. But when do prayers, and clicks, and retweets do anything for those we direct them to? And – more importantly – what will those clicktivisms do for the next victims?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. I think that’s the first thing to admit. I may have sent $10 to Haiti through the Red Cross years ago. I’m pretty sure I changed my profile picture to a French flag for a week after Paris. I may have retweeted an article about common sense gun regulation and I laugh along with John Oliver whenever he points out the intractable realities of gun politics or domestic terrorism in America. But it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.

One side blames the other, nothing gets done largely because we do nothing about it. This isn’t another rant saying we all have to take action, though we should, it’s a suggestion that if we’re not going to do something worthwhile we stop updating our statuses like we’re part of the solution.


And this isn’t just an American problem. There will be other posts about how we can’t really be the greatest country in the world if we’re this lazy about preventing the next tragedy and there will be other posts about the political status quo in America… but this really is a global problem.

When does someone say enough? When do we put our foot down and say WE ARE THE PROBLEM?! When do we say that our politicians are the problem? That our indifference is the problem? That we care enough to make a splash on social media but not enough to dive into the deep end?

When do agree that if we’re not going to stand up then we don’t get to tweet out that we’re praying for Orlando, we don’t get to “like” somebody’s tragedy themed (temporary) profile picture. It’s not something you get to earn, it’s just something we should recognize as lazy and rude. We certainly don’t seem to mind calling people out in the comments section for other behavior that fits that bill… why are we so hesitant to tell somebody their hashtag isn’t going to cut it?

Our issue isn’t that we solely differ in our opinions, it’s that we send them into the world like we’re blowing bubbles… no consequence, no permanence, no danger. A good healthy debate would be a wonderful next step, but we’ll have to put down the mouse, the smartphone, the tablet and be people again.

We’ll have to think of ourselves as equals. We will have to want change. We will have to be willing to change.

We have to be a great nation to boast about it.

We will have to see our futures as more important than our comforts and coping…. and to do that each of us will have to start thinking of a click in support of a tragedy as an investment in more tragedy.

Photo credit: Gabriela Camerotti via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

About the author

Annie Rothe

Annie Rothe, a Colorado-born, yoga-loving, Samoyed-owning mom to an 8 month old little girl. Annie began blogging over at Simply Annie after having her daughter and becoming a SAHM. Between naps and play dates she loves arranging flowers, writing for her blog, spending time with her husband and her tribe.


  • definitely a thought provoking post. Sometimes, I do think people do those things (myself included) because we feel helpless and want to try and show some kind of solidarity; however, I agree that it needs to be followed with some kind of action or at the very least, some conversation in every day life.
    I think I appreciate when someone acknowledges an event but also attempts some kind of dialogue about it. Changing your profile picture is one thing, but let’s talk about it, even if it is just on Facebook.

    • I totally agree with you, Shaunacey! I totally understand that it makes feel a tiny bit less helpless. I do it as well! I just hope that we can start making a change and start having the conversations that no one seems to want to have.

      • I think you captured that THAT is what’s important, changing pictures and retweeting takes two clicks… we need more than that, even if it’s a conversation, it’s the effort to have the conversation that’s often lacking.
        Thanks for writing this, great to get people thinking about it.

  • There’s been so much going on, and my heart has been hurting. I can only IMAGINE the hearts of those involved. I pray, and I do think what can I do? I just try to make caring children and teach THEM about goodness and love. Great post.