Why It Is Not Pointless To Have a Ukrainian Flag on Your Profile Picture

There is little to suggest that digital engagement makes people less engaged, says author and social media expert, Magnus Hoem Iversen, in this letter first published in Norwegian in the regional newspaper Bergens Tidende.

There are many right now who are changing their profile picture on Facebook to show support for Ukraine. As this becomes more popular, sour voices also come: “Yeah, right – now there will surely be peace! How about doing something more meaningful?”

Do not listen to these voices. Here are some reasons why you can change your profile picture with a clear conscience.

A common finding in research on social media is that different types of digital activism do not replace other types of activism. It comes in addition to everything other people do, not instead. Commitment is not an on/off button, and it is not a question of either/or.

Those who get involved do so both digitally and in more traditional ways. Those who participate in a demonstration change their profile picture as well. Those who change their profile picture, but nothing more, probably would not go on a demonstration anyway, but they might have signed a petition.

Social media opens up for more, and new types, of engagement. Making one’s point of view known to others is also a way of getting involved. In some cases, it can break taboos, or counteract spirals of silence. For many, saying out loud what one means is the first step towards a greater commitment.

Then it is also the case that symbol communication is seldom as empty as someone wants it to be. To change a profile picture is also to say “I support!” I think many people can appreciate such support these days. It can also build unity; here we are talking about many people who want to show their support in a terrible time.

Therefore, you can safely change your profile picture with a clear conscience. And feel free to do something more! For example, you can participate in a selection, or donate money to organisations that help. But you can also shake off sour voices that say this is slapdash activism. At least there is little to suggest that digital engagement makes people less engaged.

About the author

Magnus Hoem Iversen

Magnus Hoem Iversen holds a PhD in media studies from the University of Bergen, where he also worked as post-doctoral researcher. He is co-author of the book Sosiale Medier, and currently works as Head of Press Relations for the city council in Bergen, Norway.
Magnus Hoem Iversen

This letter was first written in Norwegian and published in Bergens Tidende, and later adapted for NordMedia Network.

Illustration by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.