Opinion Piece: Where the bloody hell are you? Social Media and Harm Reduction
Remember this advertising campaign?
Apparently it caused a bit of a stink in the U.K. “Where the hell are you?” appears to be one of those controversial questions that gets people’s hackles up (possibly because they can’t remember where they were). Anyway thanks to the infographic below I think I might have come up with an answer.
Via: Online Schools
That’s right, we were all on Facebook. Which begs the following question:
“If you are a harm reduction worker looking for some drug users and you’re not on Facebook, where the hell are you?”
Thomas Baekdal, a writer who focuses on how to publish in a digital world wrote an article examining the history of how information is communicated (to read the full article go to http://www.baekdal.com/media/market-of-information ). The infographic below traces the evolution of information communication.
As we can see, communication of information has evolved from discussions in the local marketplace, to medium such as newspapers, television and radio, whose means of production are controlled by a minority. Even the early internet was constrained by the need of a high level of technical competence in order to publish online. With the advent of Web 2.0 (sometimes referred to as the Read/Write Web) publishing harm reduction information appears to be relatively easy. Unfortunately however I think that the Harm Reduction sector maybe caught in a 19th Century information dissemination paradigm.
The harm reduction sector has a tradition of meeting people where they are at. This is reflected in the values of a sector that asserts that work with drug users needs to be undertaken in a non judgmental manner. It is also reflected in the physical setting of the many harm reduction initiatives which go to the local (black) marketplaces, and other venues (clubs, rave parties etc), to engage drug users either directly or through the utilisation of peer workers. While engaging people in the local market is a dead paradigm for information dissemination in many sectors it remains critically important for the harm reduction sector.
Television, Radio and Print Media
Information dissemination in the 20th Century was without a doubt dominated by what is often referred to as the “traditional media”. Historically the dissemination of harm reduction through traditional forms of mass media have not been very successful. This in large has been due the concentration of control of the means of production of these forms of media, to a select few who represent a dominant paradigm of “Just say no to drugs”. See the video below for a prime example.
Without the power/resources required to control the means production of mass media, the harm reduction sector is mostly powerless to shape and disseminate effective harm reduction messages. At it’s worst, Harm Reduction has been the punching bag of traditional media. After all outrage sells advertising.
The early internet offered few opportunities for harm reductionists. While the concentration of the means of production of information had broadened to include not only the money men but also those with advanced technical knowledge, this still excluded the massses (including harm reductionists). It wasn’t until the early 21st Century and the arrival of social media networks like Facebook and YouTube, that the opportunity arose for harm reductionists to wrestle back control of the message. This has occurred very slowly however and is outpaced by the uptake by opponents to Harm Reduction.
The diagram below is an analysis of two search terms:
- “Harm Reduction” (Blue)
- “Drug free” (Red)
While this is not conclusive evidence of the under-performance of the harm reduction sector in disseminating our messages online (harm reduction does not preclude being drug free, it’s just not the only option on offer) it definitely shows that we could do better as a sector. So I ask again: “If you are a harm reduction worker looking for some drug users and you’re not on Facebook, where the hell are you?”