Lifestyle Brands and LoveLife are both projects that share some of the same characteristics. Their goal is to provide brand awareness and attract people of like interests and lifestyles. They both strive to gain the attention of people who are within the same community. In Epstein’s work, she discovered that young people who talked openly about AIDS were more likely to engage in safe sex. In her research, she visited different groups of South African teenagers. She found that the first group was not entirely open about talking about AIDS and HIV prevention. These young people were said to “shut off” (110) any discussion about it, and they would rather go about doing things that they were interested in. Although when she visited an independent village that was supported by the LoveLife organization, after interacting with the teenagers there, she found that the teenagers here were more aware of the virus. They also knew others who were HIV positive. The children in this area were more comfortable with talking about the virus. They not only talked about HIV prevention or how to engage in safe sex to avoid the virus, they knew what it felt like to have the virus and what is was like to be HIV positive. Epstein concluded that children should not only be taught about positive things like prevention or striving for a cure, they need to know about the face of HIV and the ugly parts of the virus. How it affects the lives of many and what it can do to your body are some of the topics that people need to know about. Knowing the life experience of someone who has been carrying the virus is a great start to spread awareness about the virus. In her study, the kids who knew more about it were comfortable talking about the virus, they were also the ones who were more likely to engage in safe sex. This makes them more aware of their actions and will compel them to take precaution. Through this, the rate of anyone catching the virus would be less.
The three articles can be synthesized in a way that would help people come together and realize the impact and affect of HIV/AIDS by taking a look at the community and gathering regular citizens together to find roles that each person can play and strive to fight against this disease. As Small (2005) wrote in her anthropological experiment in college, it is difficult to find a sense of community within groups. However, this can be changed once the role of each person can be established. Once this sense of community is sparked through the people, we can use social media and other new technologies to harness a movement. These connections between people can only be seen once a leader is identified within the group.
Each role in a group pertains to a different task or aspect in a certain project. Roles differ in their procedures and tasks; some may relate to tasks within the group, and other roles may be to promote interaction within the group. These groups can be small or large. As Small (2005) wrote in her study, small groups of students were seen to form around majors, dorm rooms and minority groups. Looking into these aspects of forming groups is essential in targeting like groups that can help in pushing for this cause.
Small (2005) in her paper wrote:
“From a professor’s standpoint, sometimes you don’t know what to think when yet another student says they can’t get the paper in on time because they’re depressed. But it does seem very different from when you’re living with them and you can see that they’re depressed—that they’ve been holed up in their room for a couple of days or went home for a week and now are trying to get the professors to give them a break.”
This is an interesting view for someone who has entered the school system again as a student. Small discovered that if she immersed herself with the students, she would feel a better sense of community, the ties between their relationship would deepen and she was able to better understand their needs, and therefore she would be able to help them. This quote, taken from her study, was her advice to some of the professors who might be giving students a hard time. It could be easy to say that the students are just lazy and they simply want to get away with any form of work. However, in Small’s study, she found that awareness on the lives of the students can help form closer ties and a sense of community.
This kind of thinking relates to the LoveLife organization. The children and teenagers who were exposed to individuals who were suffering from AIDS/HIV were the ones who understood the virus more and could openly talk about it. This means that their level of awareness was higher than other children. This creates a special bond or communal tie which helps them, supports the one who is HIV positive and spreads the word on what can be done in order to prevent the disease.
In her study, Small stated that she saw students and their definition of community as a different thing. Since technology has made it possible to communicate and interact with each other even across borders, social networks through technology can be formed. This is a way that can bridge connections and get messages across faster. Although, she also mentioned that there are times when these small communities can be negative. Instead of actually being able to meet other students, there are those who seclude themselves and stick to their small circles. This can disrupt the sense of community and have students fragment themselves into smaller groups.
These types of small interactions can relate to the work written by Gladwell (2010) about “Small Change”. He talks about how we live in a fast-paced environment where we can create groups for a purpose much easier than before. Unlike in the past, people protested and turned to violence in order to get their message across. Now, with social media and networking, we are able to gather like-minded people for a shared cause within a group. This group can be formed through things like FaceBook, Twitter and other social media platforms where you can connect with an audience and tell them what you think. When an online social media group like this is formed, awareness of AIDS/HIV can be established. This type of awareness will not be weak ties within the community, it will be complex connections that people share. This sort of thing can bring people together.
First of all, it must be decided among the group members if there is a problem to be solved, and if the problem is directly relating to an issue that many people should be concerned about. The problem must be then identified and clarified. In the case of AIDS/HIV, the problem is that the virus is spreading, there is no cure, and people need to engage in safe sex in order to avoid getting infected. The roots of this problem should also be known. After there is an understanding of the problem and where it came from, there should be potential solutions generated to solve such problems. However, letting people know about AIDS/HIV is nothing new, and cannot make a great impact in the world. A lot of people know about this virus, yet no one wants to talk about it. This topic is taboo for a lot of communities.
These solutions are not supposed to be rushed into, they would have to be evaluated and only the best and most effective solution is to be picked. Once the solution is made known to all group members, this must be implemented and constant monitoring on the part of the group leader is highly required to ensure that there are no backslides regarding the problem. Looking back to the studies of Small (2005) and Epstein (2010), we can conclude that the only way to get a message that will impact is to get the audience or the group / community members to interact with someone who has the virus. Children, teenagers and adults who are HIV positive should be able to interact with people and let them know what it is like to live with the virus. Not only will they talk about the positive things, like finding a cure, supporting the cause and preventing the virus, they should talk about how difficult it is to be HIV positive.
Although the bond or community formed around social media promotes weak or passive ties, a stronger message will be able to reach thousands of people. Not only will this kind of thinking spark something among people, a stronger tie will be built between people who can empathize with those who are HIV positive. Those who have the virus are not the only ones who can create an impact. The loved ones of those who carry the virus can also take part in the community that will spread awareness. Gladwell (2010) in his work described weak ties as something with strong power. There can be strength with such ties because of the immediate gratification that people receive from the fast-paced environment that the internet brings. This means that a campaign for a strong cause can be established through social media, and the message can spread with the effort of the community.
The idea of Lifestyle Brands and the LoveLife organization are great places to start in order to confront a complex problem such as AIDS/HIV. Before a problem like this is tackled, there should be an aim for the effort. The organization should target those who need to know more about the virus and come up with a way that will grab their attention. This is sort of like attraction marketing where a tie is created between the branding company and the target market or audience. The audience or community needs to consist of people from the same age group, from a certain area, those who might most likely be affected by the virus. An effort to spread the word about the virus can be made by using people who are touched by those who carry the virus.
Gladwell (2010) describes the power of social media in terms of disseminating ideas, news and information as revolutionary. Although the ties are weak in terms of community, we can say that getting the message across is efficient and effective. Therefore, we can conclude that even though the tie is weak, it will be able to form a complex sense of community in order to tackle a complex problem such as AIDS/HIV. People who have the virus or know someone who does can share their own experiences and bring light to those who know nothing about the virus or refuse to talk about it. This information or news can be spread through social media and it can reach millions of people within days. The idea is to brand the organization and to strive for a deeper tie within a community even though a weak social media tie as a vehicle is used.
Epstein, H. 2010. The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West and the Fight against AIDS. New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Gladwell, Malcom (2010). “Small Change”. The New Yorker. Retrieved from
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage= 4. Web.
Small, Cathy (2005). “Community And Diversity” National On-Campus Report. 33:21. Pp. 1-4.