Think Before You Selfie

Volunteering Abroad? Read This Before You Post That Selfie

Written by Malaka Gharib

Photo by: SAIH Norway/Screenshot by NPR

I was very excited to write this PLN post for two reasons. One, I found it all thanks to my awesome advisor and professor who happened to think of me when she came across the article. Two, it was a perfect addition to my senior capstone project!! This article really hits home because it is criticism like this that originally made my blood boil and fuel my motivation to research the harmful effects a person can cause when in a culture that is different than their own. This summer was the first time in my life I questioned humanitarian work and it scared me. While in Argentina my roommate and I had a conversation and she said something along the lines of “I hate how people go into other country’s for a week and take pictures with all the little kids acting like they actually have an impact on their lives”. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I felt so hurt feeling and hearing criticism about my passion for the first time in my life. Initially, this article gave me the same exact feeling. But as I read on it gave me inspiration toward my applied project.

The article opens with a youtube video showing a girl frustrated with the fact that she wasn’t getting many likes on Instagram, she later realized in order to accumulate more likes she must travel to Africa to take photos with african children and patients laying in hospital beds.  But hey she got a spike in her Instagram likes!!

“Think before you selfie”

This is the serious message that is being promoted by Radi-Aid which is a project of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH).  Their campaign aims to fight stereotypes in aid and development through guidelines targeted toward first-time travelers or young volunteers eager to capture every moment of their vacation or mission on Facebook or Instagram. What stood out to my most in the article was this: “according to the campaigners, the selfie takers may not realize that their posts, from the photo to the caption to the hashtags, can perpetuate stereotypes and rob the subject of dignity or privacy”. In addition to this campaign, the Barbie Savior Instagram account also was created to help show how the dignity of those who are in these selfies can be affected. This account spoofs volunteer photography by recreating popular images using Barbie dolls and Photoshop as a way to promote awareness to the public. This article was extremely beneficial for me and my applied project because I will be showing a person how to plan their own service trip!



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