It’s an interesting question, given the origins of stigma.
You see, stigma is a social creation. The simplified version is something like this:
- The symptoms of a disease scare or mystify a group
- The group doesn’t understand (or doesn’t want to understand) what’s happening
- Ignorance, misunderstanding or fear create group tension
- The group seeks collective self-assurance or release in shunning
- The group needs a symbol of the shunning – a stigma
If you examine the history of stigmatized diseases, you’re likely to find this pattern. In fact, most of the stigmatizing wasn’t against “disease”, because whatever was stigmatized wasn’t identified as caused by biological factors.
You would think, however, that as societies gain knowledge via science and inquiry, that stigma would decline. And yet stigmas abound.
In our time, what effect do media have on social behavior? Specifically, will the use of social media enable the break-down of stigmas?
Might a benefit of social media be that people will find a mode of public facing where they can seek relief from the shame of stigma?
Silence has long been a fuel for stigma – traditionally, if the victims of shunning and stigma spoke of their suffering, their social groups would tighten the grip of the stigma.
Today’s media – perhaps because people can seek and find social groups beyond familiar ones – may just provide opportunities to assault the problems of shame and stigma which inflict such cruel punishment.
I’m wondering if any organizations are studying this aspect of health and media.
So, what are you thoughts? Will social media help to end stigmas? Or might they create new kinds? (Reminder: what has the power to heal has the power to destroy, and vice versa.)
@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial – Newsletter