The dangers of poverty porn?

Charities around the world are using Social Media to great effect, spreading their messages far and wide at a low cost. The virality of the new media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp make it easy for even the poorest of charities to reach a sizable number of donors.

 But many of them are falling into the trap of misusing the new media and pulling the wrong levers at the wrong time. Shame and guilt are the easiest levers to pull and most of these organisations do a great job in using them with effect.

 When done rightly, their messages can help bring in funds to help the right causes. But when these charities start to jump into the bandwagon to follow the mullah without forethought, the sharpness of their message will be lost.

 For Example, Since last few years, Poverty porn has become the go-to strategy in most of these ads.

 What is poverty porn?

 Poverty porn refers to the act of showing images of people in destitute conditions to generate empathy and funds. These images make its viewers feel uncomfortable and guilty and forces them to take some kind of action.

 Poverty porn is exploitative and in many cases, misrepresents the situation. In addition, a bombardment of such images will also make viewers immune to the effect due to continued exposure.

 Many experts believe poverty porn is creating a stereotypical image of certain countries. For example, the current run of charity ads tells us there is great poverty in South Sudan. But, even while these ads are getting beamed in the continental United States, several hundreds of thousands of homeless men and women are left to survive in the streets of America. Their cause gets no sympathy because the poverty porn has blinded our eyes to believe poverty happens only in Africa.

 This kind of distortion can have a negative impact on the progress achieved in several African countries. For example, a twitter hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShows portrays the other side of Africa that we hardly get to see. Africa has schools, colleges, diamond mines, industries and even female head of states.

 The leftist media have been one of the leading offenders in glorifying poverty porn and it is time they are held accountable for their years of patronising attitude.

 The first step is to stop responding to these displays of poverty porn and ask their advertisers to show some responsibility and maturity in their work.