Trapped

For many, visiting the zoo is an experience like no other. Watching in awe as these creatures move and interact with their surroundings, something that many people would not see if these animals were in their natural habitats. As a child, visiting the zoo was an incredible event, but as we grow older, we start to have a different perspective on these animals and zoos, and in particular, how they are actually a prison for animals.

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Deprived of their natural surroundings, the freedom and space that they once had, these animals now restricted to a smaller space, and even the largest of spaces, provided by zoos, are simply not large enough. Most zoo enclosures often disregard the natural needs of the animals, often eliminating natural behaviours such as hunting and mating. This restriction in space and freedom can lead to a condition called “zoochosis”, which is often brought on from the animal being bored and lonely, and is not helped by the fact that some carers even abuse these poor animals.

Zoochosis’ psychological effect on the animals can often lead to the animals resorting to self-abuse, with the animals often biting or scratching their skin. The restrictive spaces brought on by zoos can also have a lasting effect on the physical condition of the animals, for example, an elephant name Lucy, who was stuck inside the Edmonton Zoo for several months, due the poor weather conditions. With Edmonton’s winters being below freezing and that elephants shouldn’t have to suffer winters of the North (Detroit Zoological, 2001) ultimately leaving Lucy to develop arthritis.

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Lucy the Elephant

So why do we put these animals in these terrible living conditions?

Well, to put it in simple terms, the money.

There are some private-non-profit zoos that are dependent on donations and memberships, however, most zoos are functioning for pure financial gain. In 2013, a report by a professor at George Mason University had found that over 160 million people had visited American zoos across the country, making billions for these zoos. Most of these zoos do no invest that much money into the monitoring and animal care of the animals. The monetary gains made by these zoos may benefit the companies behind the scenes, but at what cost does it help the animals?

Most zoos claim that they are providing the public with educational opportunities, however this is not the case. Most people would benefit educationally from watching animals in their actual habitat rather than spending a few minutes reading a small display. This belief from zoos that they are educating their visitors is false, as the visitors are simply more entertained by the presence of the animal rather than learning about the animal (Booth, 1991). Television shows and documentaries are much better than zoos for educational purposes, along with the fact that the animals are in their natural habitat and the main point of these pieces of media are to inform and educate their audience.

Episode five - Zebra & buterflies

So how can social media help in the fight against zoos?

With social media being the juggernaut that it is, there is now a platform for groups like PETA to promote their beliefs and messages to a wider audience. Social media also provides a platform for users to connect with others that have the same values as them. Across all social media platforms, there are many pages and groups dedicated to protecting animals from cruelty.

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Currently, PETA have over 400 thousand followers on Instagram, and over 5 million likes on their Facebook page. With an audience that large and how accessible it is to interact with organisations like PETA, their blogs, articles and videos can now be shared by millions of people, and continue to grow. If PETA utilise social media as they have been and continue to promote the reality of zoos, and the cruel disease of “zoochosis”, there will be enough support behind them to potentially close zoos in the future.

References:

‘Big Beasts, Tight Space And a Call For Change’, 2003, New York Times, vol. 152, no. 52624, p. A26.

Detroit Zoological Institute, “Detroit Zoo Intends to Send Elephants to Elephant Sanctuary,” PR Newswire, 20 May 2004.

William Booth, “Naked Ape New Zoo Attraction; Surprise Results From People-Watching Study,” The Washington Post 14 Mar. 1991

 

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Watching Them Struggle

On April 28th, 2016, SBS announced that they would be airing a second season of their controversial documentary series “Struggle Street”. The three-part documentary will this time focus on a diverse range of Australians living in Queensland and Victoria. So, this leaves the question for many including myself, and that question is why?

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Why are they making another season? Why do the media love exploiting poverty for entertainment purposes? Why do I want to watch it?

These are just some of the questions that came to mind when reading the announcement about the second season of “Struggle Street”. When the documentary originally released in 2015, it copped a lot of criticism from their audience. It was a false representation of a Western Suburb, where there were only a minority of people living as presented by SBS. Former rugby league great and current Triple M radio host Mark Geyer was outraged as it ‘has gone too far’ in the way Mt Druitt has been presented by the media. Geyer, who has lived in Mt Druitt all his life, “was sick to death of the suburb I grew up in copping it from people who have never walked in the shoes of the residents.”

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But all publicity is good publicity, right?

Well, in this case, yes. The more that people complained about the show and how residents were perceived, the more tuned in to watch. Seeing people in these living conditions strikes several reactions, especially considering how some of the people presented on the show are funded by tax payers through government welfare. Many may have anger towards where their hard-earned money is going towards, and some may feel empathy for the families and the situations they are facing.

So why do we want to watch these shows?

Below is a clip from the show that has been shared around Facebook.

When this video showed up on Facebook, there were a multitude of different reactions. From personal experience, the demographic depended on the reaction towards the video. Younger audiences found it disturbing, while older generous had empathy for the baby, and anger towards the people involved in the scene. There was an inclination from social media to have a reaction towards the scene, and therefore may give them the urge to watch the documentary.

There are also multiple factors that can come into play when we watch Struggle Street, for example their relationships with each other, their ages and genders, but as an audience watching ‘poverty porn’, we don’t really connect in the way. This in turn, allows people are to harshly judge and embarrass others in public without the judged having the opportunity to respond (Couldry, 2011). We connect in the way that SBS and production companies want us to connect with the documentary, for pure entertainment. These companies know that their audience is going to turn a blind eye to the living conditions of these families based on their focus on entertaining the audience.

Questions will still be asked when they begin filming the second season, with audiences and critics wondering if they will present it similarly to the first season of struggle street, or will they take into consideration the controversy surrounding season one and change the way the present the people of Queensland and Victoria. Either way, they now know what attracts people to watching their show and probably won’t take into consideration whether the show presents a negative view of those living in poverty or not, the ultimate goal is to make sure that show brings a large number of viewers, along with copious amounts of money going into the pockets of SBS, rather than those who really need it.

References:

Couldry N (2011) Class and contemporary forms of ‘reality’ production or, hidden injuries of class 2. In: Wood H and Skeggs B (eds) Reality Television and Class. London: British Film Institute/Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 33–44.

Paterson, LL, Coffey-Glover, L, & Peplow, D 2016, ‘Negotiating stance within discourses of class: Reactions to Benefits Street’, Discourse & Society, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 195-214. Available from: 10.1177/0957926515611558. [15 March 2017].

‘I run every game’: How social media grew a multi-million-dollar empire

On November 12, 2016, the mixed martial arts world had witnessed an event that had shaken it to its core. At UFC 205, Irish UFC Featherweight champion ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor defeated reigning Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, to become the first dual champion in UFC history. A sold-out Madison Square Garden, rose to their feet as they witnessed history, and ultimately, the story of poor Irishman becoming the face of a multi-billion-dollar company.

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His popularity grew rapidly after a video emerged on Facebook, showing a compilation of McGregor’s insults aimed at Featherweight champion at the time, Jose Aldo. The compilation showed multiple press-conferences, behind the scenes footage and interviews where McGregor’s wittiness and confidence overpowered Aldo. McGregor predicted that Aldo would come swinging and ‘felt his right-hand twitching’ when they had come face to face.

This prediction came to fruition at UFC 196, when Aldo’s 10-year undefeated streak came to an end in just 13 seconds, when McGregor dodged Aldo’s swinging right hand and knocked out the champion. This prediction, along with the fight result, gave McGregor the nickname ‘Mystic-Mac’ and ultimately began McGregor’s rise to becoming the face of the UFC.

So how did this fighter from Dublin, go from living week to week on the government’s welfare system, to becoming worth $60 million and the face of a multi-billion-dollar company?

It’s simple: social media and branding.

With McGregor’s last four fights reaching over 1 million pay-per-view buys and generating millions of dollars for the UFC, the UFC have made McGregor one of the key players in mixed martial arts. He’s been featured on video game covers, done late night interviews with Conan O’Brien and has even branched out and appeared in YouTube videos with some of YouTube’s most popular content creators.

As McGregor’s wealth grew exponentially, his choice in how he would present himself changed. He would wear tailored suits and Rolex’s to interviews demonstrating a more professionalised approach. Although he would often boast about his money and how much money he made for the UFC, he would often mention how humbled and blessed he is, focusing on his connection with the fans. This focus on relationship building would automatically see an increase in engagement with his fans which keeps them interested (Gholsten, Kuofie 2016).

According to some sources, McGregor will make approximately $60 million in the next year. This focus around how much he has earnt, became the foundation of his social media pages, such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

His Instagram page is particularly interesting, for its incredible growth especially after his historic UFC 205 victory, which saw his followers grow from around 4 million to 9 million in just the short span of a month. After this large growth in followers, he became much more aware of his marketability. And began to create consistent visual image for his brand that would make the right impression on his target audience. (Chritton, 2013)

His Instagram posts demonstrate a range of different photos and different captions. For example, a post featuring a family member would include a post about the importance of that person and family in his life, while another photo may be just a shot of his Rolex with a simple one line such as ‘this left hand made me millions’. This broad spectrum of posts has different connections with his audience and is a way in which McGregor can strategically boost his popularity and maintain this lavish persona.

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With his social media pages demonstrating his flamboyant and expensive lifestyle, he has recently been getting attention from boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. Both competitors have taken shots at each other through social media, generating hype for what could be one of the biggest boxing fights in history. Analysing McGregor and Mayweather’s Instagram pages, both have similar themes revolving money and family, which has caught Mayweather’s attention and had started this feud.

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Conor McGregor and his exponential growth in popularity, demonstrates perfectly how people can be their own brands. Utilising social media and focusing on a connection with his audience has become a key factor in becoming his own brand.

References:

Gholston, K, Kuofie, M, & Hakim, AC 2016, ‘Social Media for Marketing by Small Businesses’, Journal of Marketing & Management, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 24-39.

Lee, C, & Kahle, L 2016, ‘The Linguistics of Social Media: Communication of Emotions and Values in Sport’, Sport Marketing Quarterly, 25, 4, pp. 201-211, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2017.