Part Three – Traumatic Injury Image Consumption


Hello and welcome to Part Three of my four-part series on traumatic image consumption on social media. Before you read on, make sure you have read this and this first, just so you are up to speed! In this part, we will discuss the concerns associated with this form of consumption, profile the market itself and analyse a platform making moves to address these concerns.

In my primary research process of interviewing the previous four consumers and profiling the platform itself (don’t worry, we are getting there!), several points of interest came about whereby there could be cause for concern or generally require improved understanding in order to combat unregulated potentials. As mentioned in Part Two, Dallas stresses the importance of nurturing emerging markets at greatest risk of sans ethics. The most apparent is the appropriateness of Instagram as a platform for educational content regarding medical procedures. Without regulation, there is no telling who is curating let alone adding ‘medically-professional’ diagnosis to the images and/or videos. This could void the educational intention behind some individuals’ engagement if we were to analyse it on a broad scale.

Photo credit: @trauma_time 

A questionable area is also the audience that actually has access to this content, some of whom pay be sensitive to traumatic images and find them quite distressing. Although Instagram has the ability to censor the images with a ‘tap-to-reveal’ feature (see pictured), more often than not a majority of the posts are completely uncensored, and completely accessible to the public and all of the platform’s users. Another interesting thing to note is the way Instagram means to censor its users content; where do gory images of individuals undergoing surgery on horrific accidents fall on their scale of appropriateness, when taking into account their no-nipple policy? Given their nudity policy has been ‘clarified’ as a current trending topic, I find this in comparison fascinating.

Although accounts do their best to conceal patient identity, some facial construction photographs most certainly do not, and with no-one to regulate, we can only hope that the content distributed on Instagram has had the patients full consent and been distributed through their medical professional in an ethical manner. You have to wonder where these thousands of images have been curated? Many accounts declined to respond or confirmed they received the content from similar-interest profiles. Patient security must be considered in the outcome of this behavioural activity.

The final concern of interest is the marketability of this consumption. To the untrained eye, it may seem unlikely, however as a marketer myself I see the possibility of many marketing firms jumping on this unattended million-strong audience. Is it ethical to market off someone’s bodily misfortune on a digital platform for the world to see? Or is there real potential for the marketing of life-saving medical equipment and procedures. A more thorough analysis of the audience structure would be required, however, there is a severe lack of research into this particular area, both into the market itself and the behaviour. Marketers haven’t been afraid to do it before, with surf retailer Ozmosis debuting their highly successful #PayWithPain public relations campaign (Campaign Brief, 2017) just last year.

Photo credit: Ozmosis, Photographer: Sabine Schwarz

I reached these findings through profiling the accounts that created and curated solely trauma-injury content over a period of two weeks. Notable aspects of the activity were the number of followers and those engaged, the difference in captions to accompany the photographs, and the perceived attitude and approach to the injuries showcased on the account through use of sensitive or seemingly professional medical terminology,  the types of comments, and the rate of engagement on different categories of injury images. See below for accounts profiled.

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There may, however, be a viable solution to combat the uncertainty caused by the earlier concerns. Figure 1 has been described as ‘Instagram for medical professionals’ whereby it is a regulated platform with accredited accounts and profiles. Doctors can upload cases in real-time to seek diagnosis help from peers while medical students can access the cases for educational purposes. The service has in-app features to secure patient identity and also ensure they fully consent to the sharing of their case and/or traumatic images. Unwelcome people who screenshot the cases to potentially share to the likes of trauma Instagram accounts have a strike system where they may lose access to the platform from doing so. It is a rock-solid platform with some viable solutions to the potential issues Instagram poses; clearly outlines in their Privacy Policy. 

Photo: Figure 1

We’re almost at the pointy end! Stay tuned.

Until next time,


Click Here for Part Four

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