What does your profile pic look like on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Is it a headshot, a photo of you with family or friends, or an icon or quote? Do you use your birth name or a pseudonym?
What we show to the world online says a lot about who we are. We have a choice as to how we present ourselves. Sometimes we may even protect ourselves - blocking personal details from the scrutiny of the public. Likewise, we protect the identities of the children, teens and women we support. We are sensitive to their rights to remain safe and secure.
For example, some of the kids we work with carry the intense weight of two secrets they can't reveal to their classmates:
- They are orphans.
- They are HIV positive.
It's a sad reality - but, a reality they must face every day until such time when they feel safe enough to reveal their truths knowing that they will still be accepted by their community.
We and our partners work hard to protect the identities of the vulnerable individuals we support. Though we love sharing their inspirational stories, we use fake names, stock images, or blurred faces on our website and social media posts. In some cases - e.g. our DR Congo trauma healing project - you may never see any real photos of the actual survivors. In others, you may see boxes labeled "Identity Protected" strategically placed on eyes and other identifying features.
These women and children have a right to their anonymity. Many local country laws even demand it. Their future selves may or may not want to reveal where they grew up, their circumstances or what they've been through; it could be a source of negativity, judgement and stigma. In the worst case, it could result in loss of a job or banishment from a community.
We are also trying to tackle feelings of isolation, self-esteem issues, and lack of opportunities to socialize through our vocational and life-skills program and other similar projects. Cultivating interests, expressing themselves, and releasing stress and emotion through an activity also gives survivors a chance to lose themselves, forget their issues (for a time), and experience joy.
The choice as to if, when and how our survivors tell their stories belongs to them, not to us - just as we get to choose what we reveal in our social media avatars, pictures and posts.
Article: What does your Facebook profile photo say about you?