The Voice for the Voiceless

Animals and humans have an interesting and complex relationship with one another. It is no surprise that contemporary global media have been increasingly covering animals and their issues. Especially in recent times with a heightened prevalence of movements such as veganism, no animal testing and animal-free entertainment to name a few.

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The media has become an extremely important and influential tool for activists and others to bring these types of issues to light and shape opinions of those who watch. This is why it is important to analyse the ways that individuals and companies are portraying animals in the media.

There is a lots of data out there to show that animals are smart, emotional and moral beings and that they care about what happens to them. The way that we refer to animals in the media inform the thoughts and perceptions of those people watching and therefore influences their actions. As the voice for animals, we have an ethical responsibility to advocate their rights through media platforms.

Animals are often represented in the media as having human qualities, characteristics and abilities which is known as the term anthropomorphism. Kaplan (2014) explains that it is the expression of human feelings and motivation and in itself is neither good or bad but it all depends on how it is used by humans to refer to actions and motivation of non-human animals.

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It is used commonly in cartoons and movies where animals will be able to walk and talk and wear clothing but it is also a technique that is used by activist and in documentaries where animals are humanised through the narrative stricture and the social behaviours or ideas that they explore. (Evans, 2016)

When using anthropomorphism in this context, the ridiculousness of the situation is lessened. Rather than specifically assigning human characteristics to the animals, we draw parallels and similarities between ourselves and the animals and we are able to identify and empathise with them and as a result of this we are more likely to do what we can to help or save them.

Anthropomorphizing brings us out of our selfish prioritization of human needs. It helps us connect to the world of species around us. Human compassion for dolphins or pandas makes these animals the poster children of the environmental movement. To a great extent, our love for, and joy in, the animals around us fuels our efforts to protect them. (Tackett, 2013)

March of the Penguins is a great example of the use of anthropomorphism in a documentary. The documentary uses the narration to describe the penguin’s actions in a human sense of the form. Cubitt (2013) says that this allows the audience to make personal connections to the animals.

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“In this shot, a family of penguins is focused on and the audience is told about the strong bound and love that they all share for each other. Humans will interpret this scene has two penguins that are in love cuddling. However, it could very well be for some survival purpose or alternative motive outside of love.” (Cubitt, 2013) This technique is allows the penguins to become more relatable and gives them the ability to show relationships and emotions.

It is possible, however, for anthropomorphism to be damaging for animal welfare. It is important to avoid the ‘bambification‘ of animals as caused a skewed view of what really occurs in nature. According to deWaal, (2001) “bambification” is the entertainment industries business stripping away animal’s bad characteristics while endowing them with “baby appeal” using cartoon characters with “enlarged eyes and rounded infantile features” that provoke human care giving endearment and protectiveness.(Kesling, 2011)  This is used commonly in children’s movies and TV shows and should be viewed with a critical eye and it creates unrealistic views about the needs of animals.

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Ultimately, the success of anthropomorphism is determined by the reaction of those who view it. When done in a way in a proper and sensitive way, the outcome will more than likely be positive. Documentaries that address animal welfare can benefit from the anthropomorphism of animals when the outcome triggers an emotional and empathic response.  The humanisation on animals must move less from the ‘cute’ aspect in children’s entertainment and move towards a tool that promotes positive change and inspires action among those who watch.



 

References:

Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at Animals’, Lecture Week 4, BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, UOW, 23/03/16

Cubitt, Sean, Salma Monani, and Stephen Rust. “Penguins are good to think with: wildlife films, the imaginary shaping of nature, and environmental politics.” Ecocinema Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2013. 109-123. Print.

Kaplan, M 2014, “Ethology, Ecology And Critical Anthropomorphism”, Anapsid.org, viewed March 30 2015, <http://www.anapsid.org/ethology.html&gt;

Kesling, J 2011, “Anthropomorphism, Double-Edged Sword”, Responsible Dog – It’s all about dogs, viewed March 30 2016, <https://responsibledog.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/anthropomorphism-double-edged-sword/&gt;

Moss, L 2014, ‘Can humanising animals help us save them?’, Mother Nature Network, July 16, blog post, viewed March 30 2016, http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/can-humanizing-animals-help-us-save-them

Tackett, C 2013, “How Anthropomorphism Can Be A Tool For Animal Conservation”, TreeHugger, viewed March 30 2016, <http://www.treehugger.com/endangered-species/can-anthropomorphism-help-encourage-conservation.html&gt;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfiesteem: How it really effects you

If theres one big thing that have come out of the rise of social media, it would have to be the good old ‘selfie’. From the skydiving selfie to the Oscar selfie and all of those on your newsfeed, you can see them just about anywhere. But is there more to the selfie than just the cute outfit you had on today?

The opinion of other people have had an affect self esteem for years. It is a term coined as the “looking-glass self” where we develop a sense of ourself based on the perceptions of those whom we interact with. The media has increased the realms of this.

“Now that we can interact with hundreds — no, thousands — of people simultaneously, we’ve strengthened the impact that others have on our self-value.” (Erikson, 2013)

You use selfies to judge other people (be honest guys) and you post pictures that show other people how great you were looking. The media has created this whole new level of interaction with someone else where you can actually put your opinion on their selfie and say to that person “yeah, you look really great”, or not at all.
Likes. 

10, 30, 60, 1,000 or  1,000,000. These are all numbers that many people use to value themselves and this has a really damaging effect on people’s self-esteem and has created a big issue in particularly young people.

“Our identity is partly shaped by recognition often by the misrecognition of others, and so a person or group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves.” (Taylor, 1994)

We all take selfies. Yes its, true. For me it’s always scary to put one up. Like… Is it worth the risk?  You could end up getting a handful of likes and end up feeling like crap for the rest of the day or you could get stacks of likes and comment and then by glowing all afternoon. It’s crazy isn’t it, that the fact that no one has liked my photo that I could end up feeling sad, ugly and even worthless.

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The University of Salford in the UK did a study last year on social media’s effects on self-esteem and anxiety, and reported that 50% of their 298 participants said that their “use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter makes their lives worse”.The study also reported that participants also said that their self-esteem suffers when they compare their own accomplishments to those of their online friends. (Soltero, 2013)

This has created the debate ‘Is Instagram fake?‘ as people have started to fabricate their lives to seem more interesting than they actually are to get more likes and attention from their peers.  Co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory (Swyane, 2013) comments that”the types of actions users take and the kinds of information they are adding to their Facebook walls and profiles are a refection of their identities”. Creating an image of yourself that is ‘better’ than your self life, is a way that people try to gain more likes and boost their confidence. I investigated this in more depth last year where I investigated what was behind the typical Instagram image and the results of it showed that they are captured during the most exciting or ‘likeable’ moments. Has it really come so far that we have to stage our lives to look good to other people?

 

An important and highly publicised example of this is Essena O’Neil. If you don’t know who she is already, Essena is an Instagram famous Australian who decided to ditch social media for good as it completely destroyed her self-esteem. Announcing that her Instagram was a “contrived perfection made to get attention.”

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“I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading it,” she wrote of her first-ever post on Instagram, a selfie that now has close to 2,500 likes. “It got 5 likes. This was when I was so hungry for social media validation.” (Gajanan, 2015)

The important thing that came out of this was that it started a conversation…

Studies show is a strong connection between social media and a person’s self of self and many people feel the likes that a person gets on their photo is an indication of who they are as a person. It is important to step a way from media if this is the case and understand that you are amazing no matter what the numbers on the screen say.



 

References:

Erickson, Christine. “The Social Psychology Of The Selfie”. Mashable. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2016, <http://mashable.com/2013/02/15/social-media-and-the-selfie/#UVQVTH.NrZqB&gt;

Gajanan, Mahita. “Young Women On Instagram And Self-Esteem: ‘I Absolutely Feel Insecure'”. the Guardian. N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/04/instagram-young-women-self-esteem-essena-oneill&gt;

Soltero, A. “The Relationship Between Social Media And Self-Worth”. The Social U. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2016, <http://thesocialu101.com/the-relationship-between-social-media-and-self-worth&gt;

Swayne, Matthew. “Esteem Issues Determine How People Put Their Best Facebook Forward | Penn State University”. News.psu.edu. N.p., 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2016, <http://news.psu.edu/story/286310/2013/09/05/research/esteem-issues-determine-how-people-put-their-best-facebook-forward&gt;