Christian, Cody, Chloe, Kyle, and Sara
Fight Your Stigma Project
When you close the yearbook on your high school years, most individuals will take one of two routes in life. They typically will go to college, or will join the workforce. Some people may choose to do neither. However, it is arguably more common to take one of these more common paths. Whether people stay close to home, or venture into the world far beyond the comfort of familiarity. People will find that the world they were used to, is not necessarily the world they are now in. At a university or other higher educational institution, one may find a variety of people from around the world, who differ in what they study and what they hope to do with their life. In the work force, people discover different motives to work, a variety of individuals with an array of skills and knowledge. Regardless of the chosen path, people will see that their values, beliefs and attitudes do not align perfectly with the people around them. This discrepancy in values, attitudes and beliefs is often what leads to stigmas against individuals. These negative stigmas, that people use against other individuals not only use absurd generalizations, they are constraints and limitations to the life of the person being negatively stigmatized. For our group project, we wanted to bring to light, not only our negative stigmas, but those of everyone else in our lives as well.
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines a stigma as, “a mark of shame or discredit.” (2017). A stigma is a way people are negatively defined by societal norms. For our Commons Campaign project, we chose to target each of our own negative social stigmas that we feel have limited us or constrained us. We decided to make a video in which each of us identified what our stigmas are, the assumptions that are made about us based on these stigmas; but also, how we do not conform to these generalizations. The reason we chose to make a video and label our project “Fight Your Stigma” is because it is a way to share with our peers, in a large group, that they are not alone in facing negative generalizations. By using each of our individual narratives about our own struggles with stigmas, we are attempting to use the Transportation-Imagery model of Narrative Persuasion. This model suggest, by using a personal narrative, the audience can be cognitively transported into the owner’s story and can empathize with the emotions and experiences of the individual. By using this theory, our group anticipates that more people will speak up against their negative stigmas and become more aware that they do exist and have lasting impressions on people's lives (Green & Brock, 2002). We also wanted to ask a larger audience what stigmas they face, so we created a one question survey that simply asked, “what is one ‘Stigma’ or ‘Negative Stereotype’ that you feel you are judged and affected by?” This survey was anonymous and posted on social media for more feedback on other people’s stigmas. Throughout the video, we took some of the stigmas we felt were most profound and included them in our video. This way, we could show our audience, it isn’t just the people on the screen who have negative stigmas, it’s people behind the screen as well.
Our proposal and intervention addressed the idea of rhetoric and false assumptions about groups of people, as well as how individualism is viewed at the university today. Many people that are affected by negative identifications on campus provide support and justification to this need of change; therefore fulfilling their role in the grand scheme as the “Rhetorical Audience.” The explanation of the rhetorical situation was illustrated throughout the #FightYourStigma video, not only with definitions, but with real-world examples as well.
With the potential of being able to reach 2 billion people, it is impossible to ignore Facebook as a crucial channel to get our message out, especially on a college campus where students are logged onto Facebook constantly. Facebook was not only used to execute our final product, but to also gain participants for our survey. We all posted a link to our survey on our respective social media accounts, and were able to get a significant number of responses. We took these responses into consideration when forming our campaign, and these responses are what drove our final product.
With our campaign, Fight Your Stigma, our target audience is directed towards anyone who feels as though they have some sort of stigma surrounding their culture, race, or any other attribute that may stigmatize them in any way. They were given the opportunity to anonymously inform us on what kind of stigmas they feel apply to them. We wanted to display to this audience that the purpose of the video we made was to spread awareness in a way the directly relates to people who have some sort of stigma surrounding them.
It is in our best hopes and interest to make everyone feel more sure of themselves, in a world where nothing is ever promised. Campus should be a safe and judge free place, with this video we want to make people who may have some sort of unwanted stigma feel like it doesn’t have to define who they are. We feel that throughout the course of this campaign, we have taken the necessary steps to do just that.
Overall as a group, we believe many things contributed to the success of our project, and that ultimately provided us with the opportunity to thrive in that success. Over the course of the semester multiple things went well for our group and we felt fortunate to be a part of our campaign. One of the first things that went well for us, was the ability to work to together from the start and agree on almost everything as a team. Our schedules lined up well and our availability also made working together a lot less stressful. The creation of our hashtag took time and thought, but spreading our awareness on all media platforms worked out well for us and was well worth the effort. We believe our final video is impactful and gets our point across in the best way we know how: being honest.
Originally our goal was to create our hashtag, create awareness, and ultimately try to get people to discontinue using stereotypes and stigmas through surrounding truths and personal advocacy. From our original proposal, we tried to stick to everything we wanted to accomplish, because they were our goals and we were looking forward to working towards them. We kept the entire structure of our project the same throughout, and stuck to what we wanted to do to ensure our success with the outcome. We stayed on track with our major goals; to reach out to people through social media, create our hashtag and successfully publish it, and produce an inspiring video to share with the public the negative stigmas we have about ourselves, and the stigmas we acquired through surveys. We kept true to those goals and ultimately ended the project with a video that met our vision and storyboard. We promoted and incorporated those stigmas shared with us, and we were proud to use them.
Due to time constraints, one thing we proposed was to walk around campus and do were on camera interviews with willing strangers. After much consideration, we felt as though interviewing strangers about such an authentic and personal topic face-to-face wouldn’t promise the most honest results. Because we wanted honesty and answers that people would feel comfortable sharing anonymously, we decided to conduct our online survey. We were fortunate enough to have over 50 participants take place and share the negative stigmas they have dealt with in their lifetime. By coming up with the idea to create the survey we were able to reach out to more people than our original idea to do interviews, and we were able to collect more data than we originally planned for.
Ultimately, we only had a few struggles to overcome. One of the first struggles was organizing and figuring out what we wanted to do, and as a group we proactively found a cause that inspired all of us. Once we figured out our plan, it was up to us to stick to our schedule and create a great project that we would all be happy with. Another struggle was finding a way to gather honest and authentic answers to how people felt stigmatized, but as we previously stated we worked together and quickly overcame that with a new, more cooperative idea. Time was one of the biggest factors during our project. Having other classes and extracurriculars, and really sticking to our schedule to get everything done was challenging, but we all held ourselves accountable and always showed up ready to work.
As our project is ending, it is reasonable to believe our accomplishments as a group have a lasting impact on not only students at UNL but also every individual. Not only were we able to reach out and complete what we wanted to do on many platforms, but we were able to create something more impactful than we originally thought possible. Stereotyping and stigmatizing have been around for centuries and we recognized as a team we can’t completely end stigmatizing others, but by spreading #FightYourStigma we hope to create a snowball effect that works to prevent continuing negative stereotyping and stigmatizing. Being unaware about the issue at hand is how stereotypes spread, but by using our hashtag people are able to spread their own truth and identify as the person they wish to be known as and not by their label.
The unique aspect of developing the #FightYourStigma campaign is the basis of which it’s founded upon. Each member brought different perspectives and ideas to the issue; more specifically the distinct personalities helped unify our common interest in raising awareness to this problem. If we were capable of going back in time and reapproaching this exigence, most of the general format would stay the same. The aspects of embracing diversity among group members and recognizing self-ignorant beliefs continued to unify our group into the final product. The only changes that we would implement would be our approach to social media; for example the sites being used such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the other forms of online social networking. For our commons campaign we were focused on one central site which was Facebook; this was to specify the target audience for our campaign. This allowed us to reach out to both family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers on these issues through the most flexible and promotional friendly site.
The change in social media format that we’d approach would drastically affect the audience in which it’s available to. If we were to bring the #FightYourStigma campaign on Twitter, we’d be able to fully utilize the hashtag in order to spread the word on a website that tends to use them more compared to Facebook. Apps such as Snapchat and Instagram wouldn’t be as effective, because those sites tend to use very brief pictures or videos to portray less important matters. Being able to post a longer video to help promote the campaign wouldn’t be nearly as effective on sites like these. The benefit to using more social media sites, not exclusively Facebook would be the pure number of people that we could’ve reached out to. The approach to this commons campaign that we decided to use is the most simple, and yet the most effective option rather than posting on every social media outlet.
In conclusion, not only did #FightYourStigma help us to develop a mutual respect for each other within our group and push us closer together as a group, it helped inspire us to create a project that is meaningful and worth being a part of. We wanted to spread awareness about how deeply negative stigmas can affect people, and to successfully do this we had to be honest with ourselves, and with the people who will watch our video. Each group member was willing to share extremely personal information about themselves to spread awareness about this issue on campus, and that was inspiring in and of itself. In order to fight something you must address it head on, and that is what we were willing to do with this project. We are confident that our video and our campaign as a whole portrays that. Our campaign may not reach every person; however, we are confident that those it does reach, will be inspired to not let stigmas define or limit them, just as it did for each of our group members.
The #FightYourStigma Facebook page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/fightyourstigma/ as well as the video we produced. We hope you find the courage to #FightYourStigma every day, because you deserve your authenticity.
Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2002). In the mind’s eye: Transportation-imagery model ofnarrative persuasion. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange, & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations. New York, NY: Psychology Press.