We live in a society in which we think that anything goes and everything is legal just to get a few likes or gain notoriety in a social network . A generation that is strongly marked by new technologies, to such an extent that it is even possible to see minors – no more than five years old – manipulating a tablet or smartphone with great ease. A society in which values ​​are sometimes scarce , but in which users on networks such as instagram or facebook multiply incessantly every day. This is where extreme egotism and the grossest posturing are born.

In the 2.0 era, the profession that everyone wants is to be an influencer -a priori, a profession that becomes simple- however, it is essential both for those who practice it, and for all those social network users who follow these celebrities, to know everything that is behind an image , the reality and not what these digital tools can imply at first .

Surely many of you have recently been able to see a photo uploaded to social networks of a famous person who has been traveling or in a cooperation project in some region of Africa, with almost total certainty that image was the following: the famous person in question, surrounded by African children and showing a big smile or perhaps giving them a gift. This photograph may seem innocent enough, however, it can carry racist, paternalistic connotations and even show these children as objects . This attitude that some influencers show when they are going to carry out a cooperation project in African or South American countries, in which they show themselves as heroes is what is called the “white savior complex”, and today we are going to talk about it.

When volunteering becomes posturing

Volunteering or cooperation work must be altruistic, that is, it would have to be an act of pure empathy, in which it is required to know in depth the history, political-economic situation and the work that needs to be done to the country to which it is Wow. Being a volunteer in countries in Africa, South America or Asia does not mean going for a week to take pictures with unknown children without being prepared in advance and only aware of social networks .

Social networks have been developing a feeling of goodness among users who uploaded photographs to their profile in which they wore a big smile with unknown children in which they claimed to have changed their lives and returned the smile that war and hunger had taken away.

Why is it called the white savior complex? This term is called the ugly habit that some influencers and people have when they go to African countries and behave as if Western society were the only one capable of solving the problems that occur in developing countries. With this attitude, the only thing that is achieved is to prolong the sensation of colonialism and that occurred in the past when Europe was present in these countries, implying, first, Africa as a country and not as a continent, in which there is only hunger and misery, and not for what it is; a continent rich in nature and multicultural.

So what not to do when volunteering? We said that volunteering is to cooperate in regions that are developing, not to perpetuate the good and paternalistic attitude . The first thing to do when you want to volunteer is to think if you would continue going even if you could not carry a camera and if there really is a real intention to help. It may seem like a trifle to think about the photographs but, really, it is a question that is currently occurring in most of the influencers who go to these countries.

With this we do not say that you cannot take photos when you are in developing countries, of course you can, you just have to try not to fall into the white savior complex. To do this, if you go to these regions try not to fall into the clichés of western heroism, you can show the cooperation and help that the natives do, the wealth that is also found there, the landscapes, the history of the country, and above all, Most importantly, contextualize the photography you take , say everything you are seeing. In many cases the problem is not with the photograph in question, but the text that accompanies it, that is why it explains everything perfectly and if you are going to help, do it.

There are numerous entities and institutions in Africa that are already fighting to combat the white savior complex and show what real cooperation is like in these countries, volunteering is not posture , it is empathy made into action.

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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