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Stop Posting Pictures Of You And Kids You’ve “Helped” On Your Trips

Back from an overseas community service or volunteerism trip and wondering about which picture of you – with the kids you’ve “helped” – to post online? Think about these:

– The child might’ve agreed to be in the photograph with you, but did he or she consent to you putting it up on cyberspace (for everyone to see)?

– Are you objectifying him or her, and his or her emotions? Using his pain and suffering to make a socio-political point? Using her joy and happiness to justify your personal endeavours (or the “success” of a particular project)?

– What is your purpose for publishing that photograph? For personal reasons, to reaffirm your supposed contributions to a community which is purportedly impoverished and backward; in desperate need of help and assistance? Are you doing it to impress upon your counterparts that you are a noble messiah, doing your bit for the greater community?

Because one who is truly dedicated to a cause labours silently in the background, and keeps his head (and face) down. He craves for no attention or superficial praises (or “likes”), except for steady progress in his projects. Eliminating these aforementioned, self-serving mentalities (here) is one way to temper these service adventures with a degree of pragmatism and a healthy dose of scepticism. And maybe address those sentiments of self-importance too.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


29 thoughts on “Stop Posting Pictures Of You And Kids You’ve “Helped” On Your Trips

  1. They are just happy for who and what they have done. As cynical as we may be of narcissism on social platforms, one must not forget the fact that some of them are just convenient methods of self-expression.

    Posted by Xeeva | July 10, 2013, 11:50 am
    • Then the question is, at what expense? Taking a picture of yourself out in a field is – I would contend – different from publishing a photograph of you with a child from that particular locality (worse, if no permission or consent was sought).

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 13, 2013, 5:28 pm
      • i’ve never been abroad before, but from my friends’ recollections, the locals were all aware of facebook and online media, and they run and rush to be photographed, they’re excited to be photographed and they call out to my friends to take pictures of them, knowing the pictures would go somewhere, anywhere, and they don’t care.. just some input =) something ironic here is that you assume they care about such trivial things we might care about, which is the very basis of such visits, to realise that we have very different priorities and cares.. hope you understand and agree with some parts of what i am saying =)

        Posted by heyhey | July 23, 2013, 4:40 pm
      • Honestly, the people I work with from various countries not only granted permission, but hope we can post more. To them it means:
        1) they get to appear in cyberspace
        2) more people know they need help and will get more chance of being helped

        Personally, I believe that we should post the photos.
        1) We are helping to raise awareness.
        2) The photos might inspire people to do likewise.

        I think if we have the permission, we SHOULD post.

        Posted by Kit | July 30, 2013, 1:24 am
  2. self-importance…the fucking irony lmao.

    Posted by Junnies Jun Yang | July 10, 2013, 6:32 pm
    • Ha! You’re right: writing commentaries and penning criticisms are on the same level as the publication of these photographs (in your opinion, at least). Strangely enough, doesn’t affect the substance of the piece.

      Ah hominem gladly accepted, nonetheless.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 10, 2013, 7:03 pm
  3. Look on the bright side… It could create more awareness… When more people and organisations know about the issues they face, they will have a higher chance of getting the help they need.

    Posted by ck | July 23, 2013, 4:50 pm
  4. i think if you see it in a negative light it can be said as an ego booster such as “i went to a 3rd world country and did this, i am such a good hearted person.” but on the other hand it can be seen as promoting awareness to the cause and motivating people in developed countries that are like ‘maybe i should go do some volunteerism in 3rd world country so that i can do my part for society’

    in this world there are always 2 sides to a coin.

    Posted by Jaswant Tan | July 23, 2013, 4:53 pm
    • Thanks for that, Jaswant.

      Of course, the proposition (second) you raised will be valid – if and only if – such overseas trips are necessarily positive. We naturally assume them to be so (because we take it that volunteers have noble intents, although it is not always the case). Even with this presumption of their motivations, I think it’s about time we questioned the effectiveness of these projects in the first place.

      In other words, overseas service projects aren’t that great. It’s time we had a conversation about that, especially in schools.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 23, 2013, 5:04 pm
  5. Have you done any Volunteering work overseas? For Kids Especially?
    Hmm.. I need photos as proof. Can you show me?
    oh.. you have not done any Volunteering work overseas for kids.. Hmm.. That means a show-off is technically a better person than a critic.

    Show-Off vs Critic
    Show-off 1
    Critic 0

    Posted by Ah Ren | July 23, 2013, 4:55 pm
  6. I think that showing off (for anything) is unnecessary most of the times but I don’t think we should fault others for doing so. Well at least it is a good cause or action that they are showing off about. Like what some had said, it could bring awareness and encourage others to do the same. It will come across as “If a Tom Dick and Harry like me can do this, you can too!”

    What do you think about those who post photos of their objects of wealth? These photos are pretty useless to anyone else who sees it but they hardly get criticism for that.

    We should allow people to post whatever photos they want because in this age, we make our own choices and we can choose to scroll past the photos if we are uncomfortable looking at them. It is the same as saying that if you do not publicise your good deeds, it is your choice as well. Who knows, someone out there might disagree as much about your silence.

    Posted by agrowingtree | July 23, 2013, 5:30 pm
    • This objection was raised in the FB thread when I first posted this. The point being – and I think we can agree on this – anyone has the right to publish whatever he wants, insofar as no harm is caused to the subject (or object) in question.

      Where we differ: these photographs we speak of involve a third party, who often has no knowledge of the publication. So this is quite unlike, say, taking a picture of yourself on holiday, or snapping pictures of food. By that logic, I will have no issue if a volunteer took a picture of a courtyard or garden he has helped to build overseas.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 23, 2013, 5:41 pm
      • I understand what you meant but your article was seemingly focused on the purpose of the person posting his photo of his helping. So if you are only pointing out the first point of your article, then it could be possible that the children do and do not allow the photos to be posted. But in most cases, it can be assumed that these trips included more than 1 person and it can also be assumed that they will be snapping photos as well. The children might not have minded having their photos posted up and those who mind, probably didn’t get the photos posted anyway. If your point was about “Have you asked for permission to post photos of others?”, then I think that your article title shouldn’t had been “Stop posting pictures of you and kids you’ve helped on your trips.”

        Posted by agrowingtree | July 23, 2013, 6:05 pm
  7. Posted by bhzk | July 23, 2013, 5:36 pm
  8. Hi, I do think its great that you have done volunteering work but I have to disagree with ur reasoning behind why ppl post pictures. As some ppl had commented, many are aware of social platforms and its undeniable that awarness is generated. I joined a group overseas recently and when e photos surfaced on social platforms, many more ppl started asking how they can join, or wat they can do to contribute.

    Not only has donations poured it for e organisations, e pictures also allowed e donors to see where, who n what they are donating for. Pictures speaks a thousand words and why judge ppl? when at the end of e day, the needy gets the help they need through these exposures?

    Posted by Christina Goh | July 23, 2013, 6:07 pm
    • There is an element of manipulation (and transaction) that is quite insidious in what you’ve posited. People use photographs to elicit certain emotions, which organisations hope will translate into monetary contributions, I suppose. Which explains why we use these pictures of individuals (without consideration of objectification), because they “work”. But whether they are morally right is another question altogether.

      And fundamentally we are – again – assume that all well-intentioned service projects are necessarily noble / yield positive results. In fact I would argue that OCIP, at the school level, is often self-serving, and fails to factor in the actual needs of the “beneficiaries”.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 23, 2013, 6:19 pm
      • err President’s charity and Singapore Pocket Money Fund case in point. But again – in an idealistic world – most will agree with you. But in a realistic world – the receivers wjill have to take what comes – not look a gift horse in the mouth – however self serving the horse it. I agree that is objectification on and evokes in ways that makes the receiver the begger and one to be thankful….bad taste. But the rich and many of us – dont have enough self awareness to realise this and jus doing it to feel good about ourselves as well . And at the end of the day – the service and money had changed hands for the better.ya

        Posted by Yapp | July 23, 2013, 11:43 pm
  9. I read and gave some thought and well, if your case stands true, then we shouldn’t see any photos of any kind of assistance being distributed, on any media platform because of the points you’ve raised.

    That also means:

    1 – No one will ever know if any form of assistance has been rendered in War Torn countries, countries struck by natural disasters and the likes of such.

    2 – Any kind of work that any NGO, NPO or VWO which has photo or video documented cannot be shared which then leads us to the last point.

    3 – Because of 1 and 2, areas that continue to not be able to receive coverage or money for assistance because potential sponsors will not be able to get word of it on any form of media.

    No Member of Parliament who goes around to hand out goodies during any period of time should also be allowed to upload any form of photographic or videographic evidence then.

    Because the reality is that NGOs, NPOs and VWOs are dependent on coverage of any kind in order to continue to receive sponsorships from organisations keen to perform CSR to assist in causes that meets their needs.

    Which brings me to my next few questions:

    1 – Where are you currently volunteering at?
    2 – How long have you been volunteering?
    3 – What is your depth of volunteerism?

    Posted by Abdillah Zamzuri | July 23, 2013, 6:12 pm
    • You’ve constructed a slippery slope which I clearly do not concur with. The point was specific. If one took a picture with a child overseas (with his permission), and did it out of the kindness of his heart, then obviously this post does not apply. When VWOs and NGOs choose which pictures to use, they do it quite deliberately: no photographs without permission (otherwise, stock photography), or simply of projects they have been part of. All of them are not in conflict with the premise of this post.

      It’s the same reason why the organisations I’ve worked with are careful about pictures we use. The rights of the subjects cannot be ignored. The coverage you assert is necessary is not dependent on “using a poor child in need to invoke sympathy, and thus donations”. That, to me, is insidious.

      Watch the Band Aid 1984 video (on YouTube, can’t link it on my mobile). The one which has singing celebrities juxtaposed with suffering or smiling African “objects”. I cannot accept those forms of fundraising or awareness campaigns. Not only is the objectification objectionable, the endeavour is reflected as being extremely self-serving.

      Don’t see how my personal experience is of relevance, but if you must know: I’m with CARE (since 2006) and AWARE (since 2008), where I work with at-risk youths and a campaign on eating disorders respectively. I’m also with UNAS (since 2011), where I do pro bono MUN training. Did a OCIP in 2008, was with Heartware Network, the Jelutung YEC, and REACH (in the past).

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | July 23, 2013, 7:31 pm
      • If what you say about the photos usage is true, then it is as if you were specifically targeting your article to a particular person/group that you know but wrote it in a style that generalises.

        Now I am unsure whether you have changed your perception halfway through or just didn’t convey what you initially wanted when you published the article.

        Posted by agrowingtree | July 23, 2013, 7:44 pm
      • Nope, don’t think so. Trying to find principles that are probably universal (or at least in Singapore). Have I been inconsistent?

        Jin Yao

        Posted by guanyinmiao | July 23, 2013, 8:10 pm


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