Prior to its removal, we noticed many comments from upset people over the image.
We had also received many notifications that the post had been reported to Facebook.
The debate became a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. People were upset because it had been posted. People were upset because it was removed.
So, this has inspired me to write our first blog.
When is an image too upsetting to post?
We always assess an image prior to posting. There have been many times over the years where the decision has been made to not share something to our page due to the distressing content.
We are sensitive individuals ourselves and use this to assess a post before sharing to our page. However, we are also aware that due to the extremely graphic content we see often from the NGO’s on the front line, that we have become somewhat immune.
This recent post of an important petition to the RSPO, sat borderline with us. It was too important to not share, so we posted it.
Many believe that graphic content must be shown to spur people into action for a cause. Yes, that is true. But at the same time, it can also turn people away. I myself have un-liked many pages due to graphic images constantly posted. Sometimes it’s just too much. The result being, I lose track of that cause. I never forget as it is embedded in my mind, but I cease receiving updates when there is a call to action.
Yet I am also reminded as to how and why I started POI.
4 years ago, a distressing image of a burnt orangutan was doing the rounds on Facebook. Every day this image would appear in my feed and every day I would hide it. The image of this poor creature that was still alive at the time the image was taken. Laying with his arms over his head and his skin burnt from his body. This photo was haunting me. All I knew was that this incident was related to palm oil. I didn’t know how or why. In fact, I didn’t even know what palm oil was. One of my friends posted a status, pleading her friends to please cease sharing that image into her news feed.
It was that day, 27th March 2013 that I commented on her status. Stating that I was going to research palm oil, find out what it was and why that orangutan had suffered so because of it. Within an hour of my comment, I found out that palm oil was an ingredient in products that I had been buying. I felt that I had unwillingly contributed to the suffering of that orangutan.
I made a promise on my friend’s status that I would find a way to get the word out without having to use that image. That is the day that POI was born.
Telling people to just scroll past an upsetting image, or hide it from feed is not the best way to deal with something that distresses people. Nor is telling them that they have their head in the sand if they cannot cope with an image that is upsetting or graphic. We must learn compassion for our fellow human beings and understand that many suffer depression. To scroll past, or hide an image from your news feed means you must see it to begin with. Once you see something, you cannot un-see it. For many, these images can cause a downward spiral into the depths of despair, trauma and a feeling of utter helplessness. It’s not that people don’t want to see distressing images because they don’t care. They don’t want to see them because they do care, and seeing these things can be just too much for a person to be able to cope with.
About 3 years ago, I remember Facebook changed their settings where videos in news feed automatically played. A friend had shared a video and just titled it cruel. That video played as I scrolled through my feed. I clearly remember that the video length was just over 20 mins long. I had seen no more than 8 seconds before I scrambled for the stop button. In panic I slammed my laptop shut. 8 seconds was all it took to totally traumatise me to the point where I took almost 2 weeks off. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t function. What I had seen would not leave my mind, and the remaining footage that I had not seen started to play out in my head. To this day, I am still traumatised by that footage.
When it comes to photographs of upsetting images, the imagination often takes over and pieces together the scenario that led to the state of the deceased, suffering or tortured animal. That alone can cause trauma to some people.
Social media is a platform which is not only used by adults, but also children. It is important for us to be mindful of what we post and share. We know that some images are graphic in content and feel that they should be shared. But there are others that are just too graphic for us to force into our follower’s news feed without warning. We do our best to use our own sensitivity meter to assess what is appropriate, and what may not be.
What works for some, doesn’t necessarily work for others.