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Cascading Support for Paris

After the recent Paris attacks, people from all over the world started giving support in favor of the city after all the chaos that occurred. Most of these acts of solidarity were very simple. Many users on Facebook changed their profile pictures to be opaque with an image of the French flag. A soccer club, Paris St. Germain, for example, also removed their shirt sponsor temporarily with a message of “Je Suis Paris”, to honor the victims. The efforts of help were also extended to different acts of charity which included money, shelter, etc. After the brutal attacks, the waves of support that followed can be modeled or thought of in the perspective of a cascading information network, where behaviors diffuse through tightly knit groups.

In the example of the Facebook flag profile picture changes, one thing that I actually noticed was how and when people changed their profile pictures. After the shootings occurred and Facebook added the option to temporarily change one’s profile picture, there were not many people that initially did so. I noticed a few that changed theirs, but it was these people that caused most of my other friends (within our friend groups) to change their pictures as well. For example, within my network of high school friends, there were a few people initially that changed their profile picture (which occurred later on). However, after these initial changes occurred, I suddenly received a huge inflow of updates on my news feed that more of these high school friends were changing their pictures. This sense of support can, in this way, be modeled through behaviors cascading in a network. Of course, everyone did support Paris initially, but not everyone (including me) changed their pictures immediately since no one else within their tight networks did so. However, after a few people adopted these changes, they led to a flow of behavioral changes within the network, causing the large amount of profile picture changes to occur.

These Facebook profile picture changes can ultimately be applied to the bigger picture of support. As mentioned, numerous other groups (such as the soccer teams), publicly displayed their support in various ways. Such support, however, was garnered after a majority of the public decided to publicly show their support as well.

Sources:

http://www.npr.org/2015/11/21/456820583/-memeoftheweek-french-flags-on-facebook

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11820/10076765/paris-saint-germain-to-wear-je-suis-paris-shirts-for-two-matches

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