Processing the Horror of Images We See Online
Yesterday I was gob smacked to see an image pop up on my Facebook feed. Without wanting to go into too much detail, it was of a recent crime in Nigeria. You can google it if you want more facts, because I can’t even go there. There are no words, but I guess that is how the world comments when faced with unimaginable horror. It is one thing to see a poor little boy’s dead body washed up on a beach. We all remember the photograph of the boy’s tiny body in a bright red t-shirt and shorts, face-down in the surf, which appeared in newspapers around the world, prompting sympathy and outrage at the world’s perceived shunning of refugees. This photograph and others similar were ‘elegiac, mournful, devastating.’
But this…..this was a picture of many many children who had been burned to death. I can’t compare the two, they are both horrific. I struggle to even write this. But what I also find intriguing is why people share this on social media. To read an article about a horrific crime is hard enough, but to see images….well they stay in one’s mind for a long time. I understand that people want to draw attention to the horrific things that are going on around the globe, but why do we share images of such graphic violence? And why do social media sites like Facebook even allow this? In days gone by, we would not have been subjected to images at all, but in this age of media we see it all. And it is deeply distressing.
There has been an ongoing debate on social media around what images are kosher and which aren’t. You can read more about this debate here: https://blog.witness.org/2014/09/sharing-images-horror-roles-responsibilities/. Personally I’d rather raise awareness about what is going on without using imagery. Imagery works because it is powerful. However it is also potentially traumatizing. I’ve always had to be careful about what films I watch. I also have to be careful about what images I see. For we can be compassionate without seeing images. How about you? Do you feel that stories need pictures to be told? That a picture paints a thousand words? Or would you rather not see graphic images online and in the newspapers?
Whichever side of this debate we stand on, perhaps we can all be united and driven to our knees in prayer at the true horror of what is going on in the world around us. ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’. 2 Chronicles 7:14 #PrayforNigeria