“Social Experiments”

The topic for this week was focused around poverty porn. Yes you heard that right. An official definition of poverty porn is producing objectifying images of the poor for privileged gratification (Threadgold, 2015). To put this in Lehman’s terms it’s essentially any type of media which shows lower socio-economic or disadvantaged people which in turn generates an emotional response for wealthier people. Poverty porn is all around us used by charity and non for profit organisations (images of sick, malnourished children), television shows (struggle street, swift and shift) and social experiments.

With the rise of social media there has been a new-found love of social experiments. Don’t get me wrong social experiments have been around for years one of the most famous being the Stanford Prison Experiment however now these experiments can now be shared online. The main aim of social experiments is to explain how thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by the presence of others (Blakstad, 2008).


In case you hadn’t noticed, poverty is entertaining (Threadgold, 2015). I searched into YouTube “social media poverty” and clicked on the first video. It is a social experiment about a child being homeless in the Unites States. The video had 21,956,435 views and 679,357 likes at the time.


social media experiment 2

This video was created by well-known YouTube star fouseyTUBE and was a completely staged experiment. He hired a young boy as an actor to go and beg on the streets in America with a sign that reads ‘I just want enough to get my sister a meal’. He then filmed the reactions of pedestrians and made judgement on whether they donated money or not.

There is one main problem with these social experiments. They are staged. The boy is an actor as well as the majority of passer-by’s are also in on the video. This isn’t the first time a staged social experiment has occurred. Australian YouTube personality Adrian Gee performed an honesty test where he pretended to be a blind man asking for change to see whether people would provide the correct change. The video went viral quickly however came under scrutiny when the people featured in the film confessed to being actors (Noble 2015).

Staged social experiments such as Gee and fouseyTUBE’s videos trivialise these actual incidents. Roenigk (2014) concludes this point perfectly stating that ‘poverty is a result of both individual and systemic problems, involving not only personal circumstances but the social and justice systems in place that either work to empower the poor or perpetuate their condition. However, poverty porn defines poverty as merely the observable suffering resulting from a simple lack of material resources’.

“Poverty as merely the observable suffering from a simple lack of material resources” both these video display this, the homeless child without money and the blind man without sight. Social media can have positive impact on poverty around the world however viewers must be able to distinguish between what is true poverty and what is poverty porn designed to attract viewers and subscribers.


Reference List:

Blakstad O. 2008, Social Psychology Experiments, Explorable, viewed 18 March 2016, https://explorable.com/social-psychology-experiments

Noble F. 2015, Oh the irony! Viral social experiment which ‘tested’ people’s honesty is exposed as a HOAX.. and everyone involved in the video was an actor, Daily Mail, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3321398/Viral-social-experiment-tested-people-s-honesty-revealed-HOAX.html

Roenigk E. 2014, 5 reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong person, one, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.one.org/us/2014/04/09/5-reasons-poverty-porn-empowers-the-wrong-person/

Stanek B. 2014, The Big Problem With All of Those Viral ‘Social Experiment’ Videos, Mic, 24th November, viewed 18 March 2016, http://mic.com/articles/104986/the-big-problem-with-all-of-those-viral-social-experiment-videos#.x6vQTkrVB

Threadgold S. 2015, Struggle Street is poverty porn with an extra dose of class racism, The Conversation, viewed 18 March 2016, http://theconversation.com/struggle-street-is-poverty-porn-with-an-extra-dose-of-class-racism-41346



The Selfie Revolution

Selfie: a self-portrait made in a reflective object or from an arm’s length

According to Radulova (2015) the word selfie gained international attention when it was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year in 2013. The origin of the word however originated in Australia. It was first shared on an ABC forum by Australian man Nathan Hope, who shared an image of his cut lip in 2002.

blog 1 busted lip

(Source: http://goo.gl/JiPXIc)

Since then the selfie has erupted all over social media and is now a commonly found on most social media sites. The question that arises from the selfie taking saga is does the selfie stem from an obsession with looking at ourselves? Being in the main demographic age for selfie takers I decided to look back through my Facebook to see how many selfie’s I had posted. None. However! I have been tagged in selfies with friends. Does this mean I have an obsession with myself?


Personally I believe the selfie is not a reflection of an obsession with our self but rather a means to increase our social media status.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat all these apps are used for sharing information and photos online. Whilst photo sharing is an important feature of these social networks sites the emphasis is on social status. By social status I mean “what your peers think of you, whether they hold you in esteem or contempt, and the privileges that accord from this position” (Marwick 2013, pg. 74). Facebook has ‘Likes’ and ‘Friends, Instagram has ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ and Snapchat has ‘Best Friends’ and ‘Snapchat Score’. The higher your snap score and the more friends and followers you have determines your social media status. Posting a selfie online whether it’s a funny selfie or mirror selfie is an act to increase your social media status.

blog 1 new fb friends

(Source: http://cdn.meme.am/instances/59834457.jpg)

With this focus on social media status and having the largest possible following users of social media must ask themselves whether or not they are being controlled by the medium? Facebook lets you ‘un tag’ a photo however you cannot delete this photo if it is not yours. Snapchat is slightly different because it automatically deletes a photo after the time limit set expires making users feel “safer”. However is snapchat really a medium in which you’re safe? Yes the photo expires after the time limit however recipients can easily screenshot the photo without your permission.

Madden et al. (2013) explored teenager’s social media use and their privacy settings. She concluded that whilst teenagers take a public approach to social media they also employ different steps that restrict and crop their profiles. This is a promising sign however 91% post a photo of themselves, 71% post their school name, 71% post the city or town where they live, 53% post their email address and 20% post their cell phone number.

20% post their phone number! That’s crazy! You need to chill out and go back to taking selfies.


Reference List:

Madden M., Lenhart A., Cortesi S., Gasser U., Duggan M., Smith A., Beaton M., 2013, ‘Teens, Social Media, and Privacy’, Pew Research Centre, accessed 9/03/2016, http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/teens-social-media-and-privacy/

Radulova L. 2015, ‘Australia revealed to have invented the word ‘selfie’ as more than 2000 Aussie phrases and words are added to Oxford Dictionaries’, Daily Mail, accessed 9/03/2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3061118/Australia-revealed-invented-word-selfie-2000-Aussie-phrases-words-added-Oxford-Dictionaries.html