Helping Relation: Between Pride and Shame. Buying Food for a Hungry Person in Poland: A Case of an Internet Discussion

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 4C KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Tatiana KANASZ, The Maria Grzegorzewska University; NIP: 525-00-05-840, Poland
The present case study examines feelings and perceptions of people who occasionally buy food for a needy person in Poland. It is based on 500 selected Facebook comments. The aim of this study is to reveal typical emotional reactions towards helping a hungry person. The theoretical framework of the study is built on the sociology of emotions, namely Arlie Russel Hochschild’s concept of the emotion management and feeling rules, and Candance Clark’s concept of sympathy margin.

This is an interesting case because it attracted a lot of people (including the media) in a short period of time opening a discussion on the moral condition of Polish society. When Tomasz Motylinski (who is an IT worker, rather unknown for the public) published a private Facebook post about his experience of buying food for a poor man on July, 2014, 170 thousand Facebook users liked his post, and 1.5 million people visited his Facebook page.

Asking someone to buy something to eat creates an interaction order with various emotions and unequal power relations. On one hand, people providing aid feel proud due to their sympathy (becoming a sympathy donor toward a poor), on the other hand, they feel a sorrow (sad and disappointed) that their help is just momentary, they are not improving a status of a needy person. Samaritanian way of conduct towards a hungry poor person arises two basic emotions in the observers: some feel compassion, others are hostile and they stigmatize both a poor person and his or her virtue. Yet, the receiver of aid stays silent in the media discussions.