This morning, as I packed my books away into my bag and walked out of the classroom, I happened to join a friend in the hallway as we headed in the same direction.
“How’re you holding up, S?” I asked.
“Fine, I think.”
Then she told me about how, in an earlier class that morning, a girl had especially come up to her and asked her if she was doing okay, considering the tremendous heaviness that the Christchurch Mosque massacre in New Zealand had left in its wake the night before.
“I was surprised,” S said to me.
And so was I, upon hearing, which unsettled me.
Massacres happen. Scores leave this world. Blood dries up. The cycle continues. And in all of this, social media is a-fire with thoughts and prayers, words of sympathy from people we have never met in our lives, whose usernames never match their profile pictures, and whose words, oftentimes, mean nothing.
The #Hashtag Condolences.
And yet, in real life, as we lift our misery-laden beings from bed and engage in the mundane activities of life, the atmosphere remains devoid of that energy. We sit through classes, we pass by hundreds of faces in the hallways, many of whom give the occasional tight-lipped smile. A typical, mechanical day continues.
The blade of irony that cuts deep, however, is that those faces bent over their iPhones are probably giving their condolences to the unknown masses on the world wide web, all while passing by the bereaved, shoulders inches away. Silent.
No one talks about it. No one feels the need to. Condolences have been given in abundance in the world of #hashtags. There aren’t any left to give. Can you blame them?
Until we extract ourselves from the somnambulant rigidity of our lives, real-life sympathy and empathy has slim chances of survival. Until we stop sleepwalking through life, and become present with the people around us, we are at the mercy of #hashtags.
In tragic times like these, add some value to the monotony of your life. Lift your face and offer your condolences, minus the #hashtag. Speak. Be vocal. Lend a shoulder. Be present.
Save the tradition of condolence from extinction.