Tech & Science

Social media ‘Memories’ can be painful for survivors of gender-based violence: study

Seeing photos from years ago popping up on your phone can be a positive reminder for some, but for others it can be problematic or even painful. not.

A study conducted at the University of Calgary, as part of a larger study of gender-based violence activism in Canada, explored how Facebook Memories affected survivors of gender-based violence.

Dr. Nicolette LittleCurrently a lecturer in the Media and Technology Studies Program at the University of Alberta, he interviewed about 10 people for a qualitative study, recently published feminist media studies.

“Because I am an interdisciplinary researcher, I want people from different backgrounds, perhaps class backgrounds, gender identities, etc., to talk about their experiences from their perspective as these social media ghosts emerge. I was thinking,” Little told Global. news.

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Memories on Facebook was launched in 2015. But for survivors of gender-based violence, seeing previously posted photos of abusive acquaintances, relatives, or intimate partners can be traumatic.

“What these social media ghosts, or images from the past, were giving participants was confusion,” Little says. “Some were experiencing outright panic attacks. Stomach sickness, sweating and heart palpitations when images of people who had abused them in past relationships appeared on social media.” .”

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“This has been exacerbated by past problematic partners when they blocked or removed the individual as a friend.

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She explained that even if the survivor unfriends or blocks them, the abuser can still appear in their memories.

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“Many of them talked about having PTSD, and many of them felt quite irritated by the specter of social media,” Little added. It can take days or even weeks before you go back to and start feeling something resembling normal.

“Some of the participants were out of work after being traumatized by an ex-girlfriend they never wanted to see again, and had to undergo expensive medical treatment. I say “former”, but it could be an acquaintance or a family member. ”

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The changing social media landscape

That negative experience has also led to some survivors’ shutdowns, Little said.

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“One participant, Naira, ran to her room and put her phone aside, sometimes for days, trying to avoid the specter of social media.

“For those who have experienced and survived abuse, being social is actually very effective in healing, but some participants actually shut down social media, get off their phones, and watch. “Some people refuse to do that,” says Little. she said.

“These devices, smartphones, connect us not only with problematic images, but also with loved ones, potential employers and social connections.”

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And Little also realized that opting out of Memories was a long, multi-step process that was both simple and inaccessible.

“A lot of the settings for that were pretty decentralized on the screen. There were three little dots in the top right corner that you navigated through and eventually blocked certain date ranges, certain people. You can find the settings you need to

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The concept of “social media ghosts” is new, but the concept of “design justice” is not.

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“The people designing this software and platform are often thinking about their own reality and unaware of how the demographic vulnerable to gender-based violence is experiencing the platform. said Little.

“I think research like this is helpful because it’s part of an ongoing conversation. Design justice, Sasha Costanza-Chock How to make technology platforms, algorithms fairer and safer for everyone to use.

“This helps developers and platforms think about things, preferably with a trauma-based lens. This eliminates the need for someone to go through the steps of deleting photos or navigating through memories. Things like getting rid of problematic memories can be very helpful.

“Perhaps people don’t have to look at their memories, recognize that memories can be painful, and can opt in in the first place instead of opting out of it,” she said.

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Few would expect these ideas to be considered by big technology developers like Facebook, Apple, Instagram, etc.

“It’s definitely a conversation, especially about where to go with the importance of technology, algorithms and AI.

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“This is an important moment to have these conversations and get serious about how we can design technology in a way that doesn’t leave people in the cold, actively hurts people, and doesn’t actively marginalize them.”

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© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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