Diversity Awareness,  Oswego Coursework

The Truth Behind Photos

Truth and Believability in Photos

Social Media and the Family Unit. What’s Really Behind the Post?

Photo of smiling family of three in park on sunny day.

Posted on Facebook on Saturday at 11:32 am. A happy family unit running through the park on a picture perfect day.

Mom had to wear makeup to the park to cover the bruise on her cheek that developed because Dad punched her on Friday night.

Black Family” by Family First is marked with CC0 1.0.

Posted on Instagram at 6:52 pm on a Thursday night. Having a great time smiling and laughing with friends!

When he went home he cried uncontrollably for 6 hours as he contemplated suicide.

Photo of man laughing at dinner table with drink in hand.

Doesn’t he look happy? He’s totally faking it.” by Pretty Poo Eater is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Posted as a loop video on TikTok on Tuesday at 4:30 pm after a day at the museum.

On Wednesday morning the older daughter was in the emergency room for a broken wrist. They told the doctors she fell off of her bike because they couldn’t tell the doctors that Dad broke her wrist.

Photo of smiling family of four.

Gay couple with their 2 daughters” by pearlbear78 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of toddler smiling up at camera.

Posted on Instagram on Monday at 7:48 pm with the caption “all smiles my love”.

On Monday at 7:38 pm Mom spanked him so hard that he started to bleed on his bottom.

Joy” by Deepakjb is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Sent on Monday at 9:38 am to her WhatsApp group of fellow church members with a text that reads, “smiling up at God as He smiles down on me”.

The night before, right after church her husband of 10 years yelled and cursed at her for 2 hours in front of their 4 year old.

Photo of a woman smiling.

Ignacio Rivera, Sex Worker Literati / 20090903.10D.52479.P2 / SML” by See-ming Lee (SML) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo of smiling woman taking selfie.

Posted on her Twitter page on Wednesday at 10:22 am for her 1.2M followers with the caption “I choose me”.

Three days later on Saturday night, she reconciled with her abusive husband because she knows how much he loves her.

Browsing Smartphone” by Kristin Hardwick is marked with CC0 1.0.

Photo of smiling couple taking selfie in front of the U.S. White House.

International travel bloggers post this picture to Instagram on Sunday at 10:05 am for their 800K followers with the caption “all you need is love and travel”.

On Sunday at 8:22pm he violently rapes her after they return to the hotel.

Couple takes Selfie in front of The White House” by joncutrer is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of toddler holding smart phone.

They start young. “44% of children under the age of 1 use mobile devices every day. By the age of 2, that jumps to 77%” (McCarthy 2015). Children are using smart phones and viewing social media at early stages of development.

Little girl looking at mobile phone.” by shixart1985 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of teenager smiling at smart phone.

A study of “…13- to 17-year-olds found that 45% are online almost constantly and 97% use a social media platform, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat” (Mayo Clinic 2022).

Like a Child” by Czar Hey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo of a sticker that says social media harms mental health.

You see these happy images of people living a fulfilled life, but we don’t always know what’s really happening in their lives.

You believe in the facade. You grow jealous of their lifestyles with every post.

Social Media seriously harms your mental health” by Esperluette is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of pensive woman lying down.

You are depressed and suffering from anxiety because you want that life but you can never be as happy as they are.

Black Magic Woman” by alainlm is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of distressed and pensive woman.

You are withdrawing from your own children and the anxiety is a weight on you because you want that life but you can never be as happy as they are.

Adia’s #parrot #ring #rocks #poughkeepsie #adia #bird #jewelry #nails #hands #fingers #beautiful #africanamerican #black #hair #hairdo #eyes #lips #sexy #woman #girl #newyork” by bigredpenguin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

You are too busy on social media to talk with your child. You are too consumed with social media to engage with your child. You are too burdened from anxiety and depression to care for your child.

The umbrella of child abuse includes neglect.

Handwritten illustration of notes about child abuse.

Child abuse” by trapezeartist is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

More children suffer abuse from neglect than other forms of child abuse.

Graphic of categories of child abuse.

Child Abuse in Missouri” by KOMUnews is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Artwork representing neglected child.

The child is left to fend for themselves.

Child Alone Parents House Abuse Edited 2020” by patwilson687 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of child holding ears as parents argue.

The child needs to be cared for but no one is listening, no one is watching.

child-crying-asking-for-help-post” by scarysideofearth is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The child remains silent. Neglect IS abuse.

Photo of child with caption speak up against child abuse.

Ibthilaal against child abuse and save the children.” by Ibrahim Asad’s PHotography is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of child abuse prevention banner.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. If you see that a child is being neglected because of the influences of social media, you need to speak up. We can prevent child abuse.

Together, We CAN Prevent Child Abuse/ April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, Executive Mansion, Springfield IL” by danxoneil is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Reflective Essay

I chose this topic because I recently watched a documentary called “Shiny Happy People” about the Duggar family from the reality show “19 kids and counting”. The parents of the show appeared to be a dynamic duo with strong beliefs and values, who were firm yet caring, nurturing parents. I love kids and had always wanted a large family. I would watch this show in amazement to see how the household was so organized; and how wholesome and happy they all seemed. The show was on television for about 7 years until scandal hit. According to the documentary, the oldest son was accused of molesting several young girls including some of his sisters and was later arrested for child pornography. The documentary also portrayed a cult-like environment and upbringing for the family including child abuse disguised as stern discipline techniques. 

The Duggar story in the context of this photo essay also made me think of social media and ways that people portray whatever persona or identity of themselves that they choose to without being authentic. People might portray that they are living happy and glamorous lives but in reality they may suffer from depression or poverty or whatever is the exact opposite of what they are portraying.

I have a friend that is a feminist author and motivational speaker. We became friends decades before she became a semi-public figure. I know some of her mental health struggles and trauma from physical, emotional and sexual abuse she experienced in past partners. Her public persona on social media portrays a strong Black woman who knows her worth and empowers others. However in her private life, she continues to struggle with her mental health and continues to enter into abusive relationships.

Are the Duggars and my friend being authentic? Is there truth in the photos and videos that they publish? Is it all fake? Are they showing what they wish they really could be? Do they realize there is a duality in their online presence?

It also makes me wonder, what is the impact to the children involved? The Duggars have many children and my friend has one child. What’s the lasting effects on them? Is this a legacy of trauma being passed down through generations? Social media has been linked to depression among teenagers and adults. Some people experience depression and anxiety because they are comparing their own lives to those on social media (e.g. posts about that amazing, party meal or vacation etc.), when in fact the person who posted might not be living this happy amazing life that they portray.

The goal of my photo essay is to get people thinking about the possible long lasting effects of portraying that which is not authentic. I used a combination of fact and fiction to narrate the photo essay. 


Here’s How Social Media Affects Your Mental Health | McLean Hospital. (2023, January 18). https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health

McCarthy, C., MD. (2015). Many babies and toddlers use mobile devices every day. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/many-babies-and-toddlers-use-mobile-devices-every-day-201511128579

Miller, C., Bubrick, J., PhD, & PsyD, A. H. (2023). Does Social Media Use Cause Depression? Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

Teens and social media use: What’s the impact? (2022, February 26). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teens-and-social-media-use/art-20474437
The Social Challenge: Rise in internet addiction amid pandemic isolation. (2021, November 24). [Video]. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/social-media-use-linked-depression-adults-rcna6445