Repost If You Agree: Why Your Facebook Status Is Not Activism

A week ago a friend on a social network I use often (no, it’s not Facebook or Twitter) posted the following, prefaced by “Oh Lord, here we go again”:

“Okay pretty ladies,it’s that time of the year again….Support of Breast Cancer Awareness!!So we all remember last year’s game of writing your bra color as your status or the way we like to have our handbag handy?Last year,So many people took part that it made national news and the Constant Updating vstatus reminded everyone why were doing this and helped raised Awareness!!Do not tell any males….what thestatus mean…keep them guessing!!and please Copy and Paste (in a message)this to all your females friends. It’s time to confuse the men again (Its not really that hard to do)the idea is to choose the month you were born and the day you were born.(Pass this on the GIRLS ONLY!!and lets see how it reaches around.The last one about the bra went around all over the world.Your status should say “I am going to_________for__________months”. The day you were born should be for how many months you are going. Janauary-mexico February-London March-miami April-Dominican Republic May-france June-St.Petersburg July-Austria August-Germany September-New York October-Amster Dam November-Las Vegas December-Columbia”

I groaned as well when I read this, because I knew eventually this meme would hit someone within my group of Facebook friends and I’d be seeing this in my Messages. So far I haven’t seen it – but it’s only a matter of time.

I understand why these awareness memes started: it’s very easy to support a cause when all you have to do is copy and paste, or use an arbitrary algorithm (and I’m using the word “algorithm” very loosely here) to figure out what city you’re going to and for how many months. For me, this particular meme suggests I’ll be in London for 8 months, which sounds pretty fabulous, to be honest.

But the reality is that a cryptic, cutesy status update – or even a tweet – is not activism. Telling people what color your bra is or where you like to leave your purse doesn’t raise awareness of breast cancer. It merely confuses people. Social media confusion does not equal awareness; it equals irritation and unfriending and unfollowing.

Righteous – or even non-righteous – indignation over a dreaded disease, the poor and downtrodden masses, or even an abused puppy is common on the Internet. I get it. I get indignant too and I will share stories that particularly piss me off. What I’ve discovered, however, is that spreading those stories doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. What does make a difference is actively doing something to show my feelings about the issue.

So ladies, rather than tell me you’re going to France for 16 months, why not give a few bucks to the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen? Or if you’re low on funds, how about going to your local hospital and reading or playing games in the pediatric cancer ward? Or call the nearest hospice and volunteer to deliver a meal to the family of a woman with breast cancer, or babysit her kids while she’s at chemo? It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. It just needs to come from your heart.

I can’t stop these silly memes or trends with one blog post, I know. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping we’ll move from passive support of issues and causes to more active support.

Friday’s Hot Tip: 5 Ways to Help Your Unemployed Buddies

I decided to follow up on Sunday’s post about dealing with the unemployed with some good tips on helping out friends and family members who find themselves without work. These tips are based on what I’ve experienced being unemployed/underemployed, and what I wanted from my friends and loved ones during that time.

1. Start with asking, “How can I support you?”

These five little words should become a mantra for you, as this phrase works beautifully in many situations when someone is experiencing difficulty in their life. In an unemployment scenario, it gives the other person the power to decide what they want or need as they process the loss of their job. Pro tip: don’t ask this question just once, either. Whenever they need to vent about their job search, interviews that went nowhere, or their struggles to stay afloat, it’s your opportunity to ask what, if anything, they need from you.

2. Don’t assume you know their master plan post-layoff.

As I briefly mentioned in Sunday’s post, unemployment can give someone the opportunity to pursue life-long dreams. It opens the door to write, start a business, make a career change, travel, or volunteer. And believe it or not, they might not want a full-time job again. Everyone’s situation is different – give them space to figure out what’s next, and if you remember Tip #1, then they might just let you in on what they are dreaming up.

3. Keep your comments about money to yourself.

Trust me when I say someone who is unemployed (or even underemployed) does not want to hear you complain about the state of your bank account. Nor do they want to hear your comments about what they are doing or not doing with their money. Like politics, sex, and religion, discussions about money can kill a conversation, and in some instances it can kill a relationship. Do yourself and your friend a favor and hold your tongue.

4. Don’t radically alter your communication style or forget about them altogether.

Just because someone loses their job doesn’t mean they are a social pariah and you need to leave them alone. By the same token, if you were having phone conversations with them every couple of weeks, don’t suddenly start calling every other day. Be sensitive to their situation and let them guide the conversation when it comes to work or career topics, but feel free to talk about current movies, TV shows, books, music, local news or happenings. Or you could even talk about your pet’s antics or the latest celebrity scandal. The key is to keep things normal.

5. Let them mourn the loss of their job.

Momcat always told me, “When a relationship ends, it’s a death and it needs to be mourned.” She was talking about romantic relationships, but this also holds true for the relationships we have with our jobs, which are just as complex and layered as any love relationship. Give them space and time to grieve, and allow them to dictate when they are ready to move on in their career.

Have your own tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments section.