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.