We live in an age where putting ourselves and experiences on display is commonplace. The world we witness can be shared with the tap of a finger: keeping friends and family up-to-date on the individual we’re becoming. Beyond our personal lives - social media plays a huge, and often unfortunate, role in the volunteer industry.
Though it’s uncomfortable, it’s imperative to critically examine the cringe-worthy evidence of voluntourism dissected and satirized in media: volunteers - both internationally and domestically - often portray their experience in a way that dehumanizes, and demoralizes communities they are entering.
Breakers have the responsibility to exercise caution with social media on both a personal and programmatic level - everything from ensuring informed, legal consent is attained when photographing other people (especially children) to considering how pictures and narratives are presented.
Individually, breakers must be wary of the intentions behind each post. It takes self-awareness and honesty to realize whether or not the picture is for your own self-promotion. After intent is examined, impact has to be considered - is the photo you’re sharing perpetuating the single story of a person or community you’ve encountered on your trip? How would the person or community you’re posting about feel if they saw your picture and read your caption?
Programmatically, leaders must be considerate of the intent and impact of promotional materials for trips. Are you using photos that maintain the savior complex or are you showing neighborhoods exercising their own power and self-determination? Are you advertising a glamorous destination or creating a platform for communities to tell their story?
Before you post, consider following these guidelines. We’ll also offer some ideas for ways you can positively use social media on an alternative break:
- Tell a story to disrupt the single stories - challenging your followers’ preconceived notions of service and the people you’re working with.
- Commit to remaining interested and invested in the work of the organizations you volunteered with by following their social media.
- Use your own pages as a platform for organizations that amplify the community’s voice - share their message and support them (virtually and philanthropically) long after the trip is over.