Scrolling on any social media app, thousands of videos pop up, ranging from comedy skits to D-I-Y tutorials. Over the years with the expansion of social media content, another genre of videos have found popularity: videos that promote philanthropy.
Though the message of philanthropy videos may be done in good faith, recording vulnerable groups is simply exploitation. Charitable acts should be done without the need for a camera around.
One of the most well-known producers of this content is Jimmy Donaldson, also known as MrBeast, one of the most subscribed YouTubers. His video where he seemingly cured 1,000 blind people was a prime example of this work.
While MrBeast’s video is an attempt at altruism, it fell flat on some who saw it as poverty porn.
As stated by Phys.org, a science blog, the term poverty porn is a concept where people or organizations purposefully use visual content that displays persons or groups in need for pity.
The problem with recording good deeds is not the deed itself. One must not shy away from making the world a better place. However, when a camera is used, it turns the situation into a self-righteous opportunity for the performer.
According to an article by Medium, a digital publishing platform, ethical theories such as Kantianism and Buddhism denounce these actions, focusing on the impure motivations for the charity. In contrary, utilitarianism argues that despite the monetary gain for performers, a good deed is a good deed.
The article applies these theories to analyze whether recording chartiable actions is ethical or not.
The ethical implications of social media philanthropy question the overall validity.
While many ethical theories are applicable to these notions, the existence of a moral debate highlights the issues of philanthropy videos.
Humans are not props or clickbait content; shoving a camera into a vulnerable persons’ face dehumanizes them and subjects them to being just another money grab.
In an article by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, poverty porn imagery perpetrates negative stereotypes about marginalized groups. Creating narratives for these groups silences their voices; giving privileged people the platform to expose the formers’ situation takes the opportunity for marginalized groups to speak on their own experience.
Although staging and recording a charitable action is wrong, positive messages online are necessary in up-keeping a positive online environment.
Based on a study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer reviewed journal, Facebook conducted an experiment with their news feed and found that positive posts influence people to post positive updates. Moreover, negative posts influences negative updates.
This information tells the case that by spreading positive content, social media apps will generate positive online conditions.
Social media is an ever-changing interactive technology that gives people the opportunity to connect with others and produce multimedia content. Though one should always do the right thing, it can be done without the need to record it.
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