The Language of Poverty

Is it that outlandish to think that someone who works 40 hours a week deserves to have enough food to feed their family?

Last month Stephanie Land wrote an article on Alternet, an alternative online press site, ‘“Please Don't Feed the Animals’- The Disturbing Rise of Anti-Poor Web Cruelty”, focusing on the online social stigmas concerning food insecurity, or the lack of nutritionally adequate food to feed herself and her children.  As a single mother and recent college graduate, Lands works two jobs and still needs to be on food stamps.

Poor-shaming is more prevalent than ever, especially on the internet. Anti-welfare posts and commentary lump food stamp receivers into a single category of undeserving. Words like “lazy”, “freeloaders”, “drug-addicts” are constantly thrown around in the spitfire that is the general Facebook feed. Land describes a particularly negative post that has been circulating.

“At home I turn to some online social support. But on Facebook I find a shared post titled “Today’s Lesson in Irony.” Apparently it’s been making the rounds, turning up on conservative politicians’ websites. Comparing National Park Service policy with federal food-assistance programs, it quotes NPS: ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts, and then they will never learn to take care of themselves.’”

The language of poverty on the internet has become increasingly more ill-informed and assumptious. In the age of online “skacktivism”, our empathy is dwindling as fast as our attention spans. The social media sphere is quick to offer a Facebook post’s worth of insight on social issues, but the online community is becoming further and further detached from the reality of hunger in America.

However, the internet is not just a black-hole of negativity and worthless ramblings. There are millions of communities of informed activists and change-makers, using the tools of 21st century to create meaningful content. We have a responsibility to use social media for the social good, ending stigmas and promoting positivity. Our intent here at Change Matters is to tap into that potential and use technology to spread a more accurate message.

The better we present reality, the better chance we have at changing it.