Allow me to flatter myself, hahaha, but I think some of you may have questions about what it is that I am doing.
What/who is Mich-influenza?
This whole influenza thing began as a joke between friends. Won’t go into the details, but ultimately, I wanted to change the landscape of Instagram a bit, for my friends, by uploading and creating content that would let people to think about different dimensions of social problems, and also to share cultural/anthropological information. Mainly positive stuff that might hopefully result in sustainable social change/action.
What am I trying to do?
My main aim: to create a space where helping doesn’t have to be difficult, where you don’t have to go out of your way/possess a lot to help somebody.
Aim2: to increase awareness, exposure of followers to social and ethnographic content.
Aim3: translate social awareness to social action of some form.
Aim4: I am concerned with sustainability, but right now, it’s really a case of trial and error for me, to find out a method that works. My foremost goal is to achieve 1 & 2.
How does it work?
So, my original plan is, using the example of the pads & integrating it with how sponsorships usually work:
#1: person sponsors an item (pad) for me to talk about/ a trigger topic for me.
#2: I share a fact about it, tied in to a context we can hopefully identify with. (pads are an additional concern for women with low-income and in vulnerable situations)
#3: I pass the item to someone who may need it more than I do. (in this case, Star Shelter)
How do you know if I’ve passed it on ?
I try to avoid collecting money because the whole point is that we can give easily, from what we have, e.g. a pad from our existing stores of pad.
Also, you really won’t know for sure. I’ll try to take photos of receipts but ultimately, this works on trust. This entire model functions on social trust and networks.
How do I choose who to work with?
I connect and consult with friends who are social workers, people who are more on the ground. I have causes I care about, but I prefer to keep an open mind and try to help whereever I can. Since this is so largely based on social networks, the unfortunate truth is that I can only help people I happen to research about, or in places referred by my friends.
Am I concerned with sustainability/the longterm?
Yes, I am. The truth is that sometimes we need to consider both short term and long term goals, and decide for ourselves which one takes precedence at which step. I will try to go the extra step and understand the needs of the organisations fully before offering my help. However, I think we all need to consider rapport, and where we are coming from. Trust takes time to establish, and maybe we want to jump straight in to something more longterm but we always need to remember that it’s not just about us.
Things we need to consider:
The trust the organisation has in you/ rapport.
The needs of the community.
The dignity of the community.
The likelihood of your campaign/attempt receiving help from others.
When I began the idea about pads, I received (gratefully) many comments about more sustainable options.
Some things I considered:
a) the likelihood of people donating certain items. If the consumer market doesn’t consume it, the likelihood of receiving that form of aid is really quite low. It might also defeat the purpose of having Aim 1: which is to show that helping can be in what we use everyday.
b) are alternative options appropriate now? Case in point, the use of period cups : period cups are not as popular yet, and it’s still embedded in cultural understandings (the invasiveness of sticking something up), cultural practices, and likelihood of them using it as well.
\\Do I want to change their cultural understandings and educate them forcefully ?
Maybe in the future, but definitely not now. I have yet to establish rapport and fully understood their needs, to be in a position to decide what they should consume (which leads me to the next point)
Is my method flawed?
It is. I’m not even kidding when I say “please go ahead and do something better if you can.” The whole point is to encourage others to do something in their own communities as well. This influenza is in trial and error and as it is, I am beginning to see flaws in my plans. Everything always works out great in your mind/on paper. So, yes, my method definitely has flaws and everything is a learning process for me. Currently, I am trying to improve on my methods as well.
Will I give up?
I think, as a human, sometimes I get disheartened when I realise my flaws, or receive critical comments. I guess, for both commentator and myself, we always have to remember that our ego should be set aside, if we truly want to create dialogue and create positive change. Which is ironic, since an influencer is largely ego haha.
I am improving on my methods and learning while creating.
How can you help?
Follow me @michwongsays and check in regularly to find out how you can help!