Public Humiliation: Psoriasis and Photo Sharing or Shaming
"Look at his arm, it's disgusting."
Last summer a lady on an airplane took a picture of a man's arm without him knowing and put it on her Facebook page. In the picture you could see the red, flaky, patches on his arm which looked very similar to psoriasis. Accompanied with the picture was a comment from the lady stating how disgusting his arm looked. People within the psoriasis community caught wind of the rude comment and several contacted the lady to educate her about the disease. She became overwhelmed with the comments and eventually removed the photo.
In the past, this has been one of the many reasons I have elected not to show my flares when I'm out in public. I'm scared of someone taking a picture and posting it online for all to see with some misinformation tagged with it. Online shaming is a form of public shaming and has given bullies an additional tool on how to insult and attack others. The scariest part about online shaming is that one can hide behind a computer with a fake profile... And then there is the mob mentality, this is when a large group of bullies comes together to harass people. Another challenge we face is people are much bolder online than they are in person and are more likely to be rude... At times it seems the digital world is a safe place for bullies to fester. I imagine that due to digital shaming we will see an increase of depression, anxiety, and stress in the next 10 years.
The good news is there are a few ways to handle this type of online bullying. Although the woman I mentioned earlier did something hurtful and mean, the psoriasis community came to the aid of the gentlemen pictured and we didn't have to personally know him to do so. This shows that although negativity online is a reality it can be combated in positive ways.
Spreading awareness and education
What should you do if you noticed someone taking a picture of your disease without your permission?
- Carry psoriasis cards. I have created cards for those living with psoriasis to pass out if they see someone staring but don't have the opportunity to explain their condition or don't feel comfortable enough to do so. On the front the cards read DON'T PANIC and on the back of the card it gives fast facts about psoriasis. Cards can be downloaded and printed for free here.
- Avoid confrontation. I wouldn't recommend accusing someone of taking a picture of you without your permission, even if you have solid proof. I would give them one of the cards I mentioned above and hopefully, they have some type of compassion and empathy to not post the picture.
What should you do if you notice online shaming of someone with psoriasis?
- Post educational articles.If you see someone who is teasing an individual with psoriasis post links which will educate the bully about the disease.
- Work in numbers. Contact others living with psoriasis that you know and inform them on the digital abuse. Working in numbers can be more effective against bullies than addressing something by yourself. This is why it's important to find a psoriasis community, which will provide the emotion, physically, and online support you need.
Have you ever had an experience with digital bullying or have you seen online shaming? Know that you are not alone and there are others who have had similar experiences. Sharing your story can offer support and validation to others. Share your experience with our community!
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