As I explored through Pinterest and Instagram, I was immediately bombarded with an overwhelming amount of photos and videos. I had used these sites before, however, only recreationally and to communicate with family and friends. Pinterest was my go to spot for recipes, and well, Instagram was the one place I could always get the cutest pictures of my nephews. Individuals and/or organizations using these multimedia platforms primarily share information through images and videos, not so much with words. However, after doing some exploration I couldn’t help but to see a common theme with the types of images that were being shared, especially when I would do a search using the word, “Poverty.”
With each search, especially on Pinterest, I saw many themes repeated. Many of these images depicted children in developing countries suffering from starvation, with distended bellies as proof. No matter the theme, the underlying tone was shock and struggle. The images elicited a strong response for me, and successfully captured my complete attention. This is exactly what Emily Roenigk identifies in her article, 5 Reasons Why Poverty Porn Empowers the Wrong People.
In this article, Roenigk talks about the way in which the issue of poverty is represented in social media. She explains how these images and videos can be used to provoke an emotional response that ultimately leads to an individual donating money or time. However, as Roenigk points out, this approach does nothing to address the actual problem at hand, poverty.
In this article, Roenigk clearly identifies the issues behind the use of “Poverty Porn”; the misrepresentation of poverty and those living in it, promoting charity instead of activism and advocacy and lastly, how it deceives the helper and the help.
As public health professionals, we must not fall into this tempting trap—even if it does result in an increase in cash flow. We must learn to use effective media strategies to accomplish our goals and the Banyan Tree Project does just that. Here, one will find perfect examples of how an organization is working with individuals who have HIV to help end the stigma surrounding HIV in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. In these videos one can see how the communities and public health professionals are working together, side by side to address this issue. These videos are empowering and share a unique story and voice, the voices of those struggling with the disease and how they are making a difference.
As we step out onto the various social media outlets as public health professionals, we must, as Anthony Veneziale from Two x Two Productions make sure that we: 1) have a clear goal and purpose of what we want to accomplish, 2) make out work visually pleasing, 3) make it surprising and exciting, and 4) keep it short. Images are priceless, and as the saying goes… a picture is worth a thousand words. So, when using social media let’s make sure that the strategies that we engage in using social media empower not only other public health professionals, but individuals in those communities to work together to address the issues, and to transform their communities.