Beyond Likes, Shares

Cultivating Authentic Generosity in the Digital Age

In today’s digital age, acts of charity and giving to the less fortunate have become increasingly intertwined with social media and online platforms. While sharing such acts can raise awareness and inspire others to contribute, reflecting on the potential consequences for the recipients involved is essential. EBR’s Eden Teshome explores the social impact of giving to the less fortunate and the ethical considerations surrounding the exposure and filming of needy individuals.

In charitable acts, the accurate measure of giving lies in its positive impact on the lives of those in need. Genuine acts of kindness stem from empathy, compassion, and a desire to uplift others rather than seeking personal validation or social media clout. However, it is essential to recognize the potential implications of filming and exposing individuals in vulnerable situations, as it can significantly affect their privacy and dignity.

Consent is essential when engaging with vulnerable communities. “By involving recipients in the decision-making process and obtaining informed consent, we show respect for their autonomy and empower them to share their stories on their own terms,” says Samuel Getachew, a freelance journalist who also engages in voluntary work. This approach ensures a more meaningful and ethical representation of the less fortunate, preserving their dignity and privacy.

As we navigate the intersection of sharing acts of charity and maintaining sensitivity towards recipients, it is crucial to strike a balance. While sharing these acts can raise awareness and inspire others to contribute, the emphasis should be on educating and fostering empathy within our communities. “Instead of solely focusing on the act itself, the aim should be to encourage long-term engagement and systemic change,” suggests an anonymous young TikToker who documents her acts of charity while prioritizing the privacy of the recipients.

To combat the culture of performative giving, shifting the narrative towards genuine and sustainable support for those in need is imperative. It requires redirecting attention from the donors to the recipients and their needs. “By highlighting the stories, challenges, and resilience of those less fortunate, we can create a deeper understanding of the issues they face and promote empathy-driven actions that address the root causes of poverty and inequality,” explains Abebech Tola, a dedicated volunteer.

“I bear the weight of my struggles with a heavy heart, yearning for a life beyond the lens that relentlessly captures my vulnerabilities. While I appreciate the support I receive, I implore others to see beyond the surface, to understand that my story encompasses more than fleeting moments showcased on screens,” says Tsige Dagnachew, a struggling single mother who’s experienced the invasion of her privacy in the name of charity. “My dignity and privacy deserve preservation, for within the depths of my hardship lies a spirit of resilience that refuses to be defined solely by my circumstances. Let my journey be a clarion call, urging us all to embrace empathy that transcends voyeurism and to channel our efforts towards sustainable change. For it is in respecting my autonomy and recognizing my worth that the true impact of giving is revealed.”

While sharing acts of giving on social media can be a powerful tool for raising awareness, reflecting on our motivations and considering the potential consequences for the individuals we seek to help is crucial. The public exposure of vulnerable individuals without consent risks further stigmatization and exploitation, potentially causing discomfort and distress. Therefore, it is essential to exercise caution and compassion when documenting and sharing these experiences.

Samuel suggests alternative approaches, such as capturing individuals’ hands, filming from the back, or focusing on their old clothes rather than exposing their faces. It helps to show their situation without compromising their privacy and dignity. Samuel shares his experience in Tigray, where he captured images of hunger rather than extreme suffering, acknowledging that while sensationalized photos may have garnered more attention, such exploitation goes against ethical principles.

The anonymous young TikToker believes sharing recipients’ faces could jeopardize their self-esteem and privacy. She acknowledges that in the age of social media, we are still learning and must be mindful of the ethical implications surrounding these actions.

Abebech Tola emphasizes the need to consider the lives and histories of those supported. She urges individuals to put themselves in the recipient’s shoes and imagine the potential impact on their lives. Abebech reminds us that sharing images on social media may provide a partial picture of the recipients’ journey or guarantee that support reaches them directly.

“While the intention behind sharing charitable acts on social media may be sincere, it is crucial to question the long-term impact and consider alternative avenues for support,” says Abebech. The rapid growth of social media activism necessitates nuanced discussions. By approaching these issues with care, oversight, and respect for local cultural contexts, we can sustain the virtuous cycle of awareness and giving while upholding every individual’s fundamental human rights and dignity.

As Ethiopia’s development progresses, it will remain vital to prioritize consent and privacy in balancing social goals and personal needs. “By nurturing empathy, respecting privacy, and centering the needs of the less fortunate, we can foster a more compassionate society built on genuine support and lasting change. Let us remember that the true value of giving lies not in the recognition we receive but in the positive transformation we bring to the lives of others,” concludes Abebech. EBR


12th Year • February 2024 • No. 126

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