Every so often, a particularly emotive and gruesome topic makes it’s way to our attention via social media. Most recently, images of drowned refugees were shared to highlight the plight of people seeking asylum in Europe (and often dying in their hundreds). A while back there was the story of the Planned Parenthood. Animal cruelty and farm murders are perennial favourites to share in graphic detail.
Let me be clear – these are all topics worthy of discussion, and raising awareness of them is a noble act. But the question arises whether posting shocking images on social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – is the right way to go about communicating an issue.
I understand the instinct – when the subject matter is deeply disturbing, we do not want feel as if we are minimizing the problem by self-censoring. Or perhaps we genuinely feel that a shocking image might convey a message and spur people to action in a way that simple words would not.
First, let’s first remember that the age restriction on many social media, and certainly Facebook and Twitter, is fairly low – thirteen. I think we can agree that pictures of dead children washed up on a beach (and other gory topics) are not something children should ideally be exposed to without warning. Not that I’m recommending sheltering our kids, but I’m pretty confident that actual dead people is R18 and not PG13.
Second, I am of the opinion that surprising people with a shocking image(while they’re eating tea and a rusk) is a good way to get them annoyed at you, and thus hostile to your cause. Those who are already aware of and sympathetic to your cause probably won’t be shocked, and will probably support you posting, but they don’t need to be swayed. You may feel that people are not justified in being offended by a worthwhile cause, but, if your purpose is to bring about change, then it’s best to speak in a way that your audience will respond well to.
Some will argue that Facebook is not the place for discussing current affairs anyway. I don’t support censorship, and I therefore disagree. My personal pet peeve, apart from Farmville invitations, is vague passive aggressive posts, but I support their right to exist. So I’m not suggesting you don’t post about the topics you are passionate about. Just consider that your shocking images probably won’t garner the sort of reaction that benefits your cause.