It is not often that we talk about ethics in social media or peace journalism in the Intercultural Peacebuilding program, but it is an incredibly important topic! Peacebuilders, in the program and graduated, will have opportunities to travel the world whether that’s through internships while at BYU—Hawai’i with various organizations and non-profits , or entry level positions with various organizations just out of college, etc. The media that we construct and share with the world relays and promotes certain messages, often times without us even recognizing it or being aware! We have the power to be mindful of how we share our experiences and how we write the experience of others through our methods of communication. We have the ability to acknowledge the spaces we’re in and the people we’re interacting with in ways that don’t contribute to violent or oppressing narratives.
You may have heard of the “White Savior Complex” or you may have seen the “Barbie Savior” Instagram Account before, or you may be in a place where you're recognizing your own White Savior complex and dismantling it. To define the “White Savior Complex” it is: “the self-serving assumption among white people from developed nations that they should be saving poor people in Africa” or in other areas of the world. “The White Savior Complex in practice looks like this: foreign volunteers doing work that can be done by local people and local leadership, voluntourists exploiting local people by treating them as entertainment and taking photos of them in their day to day life (often without permission), international adoptions through illegitimate means (systems are often broken and adopted children aren’t necessarily orphans), the general idea that white foreigners should be adopting children in Africa as a means of saving them* (this is an issue on a systematic level), voluntourists exploiting the lives, stories, faces, and culture of African people through social media (often in the form of selfies with African children — imagine if random tourists posted selfies with your kid?), and storytelling that exoticizes the community they are working in (talking about how “poor but happy people are” — an oversimplification of human emotion)” (Medium).
There are many organizations, non-profits, and volunteering programs that promote these practices, and contribute to these violent or oppressive narratives. As Peacebuilders, the tools of media can be used to build peace, or to inflict damage to the dignity of a person or a people. As Peacebuilder’s, and also as humans connected to all other humans in some shape or form, we can build peace through media first and foremost by learning ways that we can avoid bad ethics and the “White Savior Complex.”
As a side note, for people and students that have relocated to Hawai’i for school or work, there are ways that we can practice better ethics in our social media! For example, we can recognize the spaces that we’re in and what different areas of the land may mean to the indigenous of Hawai’i. It can be a violation of ethics to tag locations that may be “Kapu” or off limits designated, or that are sacred places, by and for Native Hawaiian’s. We may be contributing to these narratives without fowl intent, but it is so important to become aware!
Here is a fantastic, and easy, step by step guide for your next trip or internship to ensure that you can follow great ethics, and truly contribute to building peace through various mediums of communication and media.