Social Media & Ambiguous ‘Slacktivism’
For some in Australia, October represents National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
My personal story with breast cancer began around a year ago with my mother being suddenly diagnosed. Cancer is something that invariably touches most people’s lives, whether it be a friend or a relative or themselves.
I’ve had both an aunt and a grandparent die from cancer, but I was unable to entirely comprehend the hell that cancer brings to a life until I was so closely affected by my mother’s diagnosis. This is not to say that I wasn’t close to my other family members, but living this hell with someone made me realise that very few understand the rigours of this disease.
There were so many tears, so many questions, so much shock, so much fear, so many sleepless, anxiety-filled nights.
In essence, I became somewhat of a carer for my Mum. There was so much we learned about chemotherapy such as how many different side-effects there are, and how it effects every single person in a unique way.
Just to name a few, my Mum suffered from ulcers in her mouth, sores on her skin, loss of hair, muscle ache, nausea, constant fatigue, rapid weight-loss, loss of hair, loss of finger and toe-nails, loss of taste, strange metallic after-tastes (that lasted for months), loss of appetite, hopelessness, bone-aches, weakness, vision impairment and so, so many more.
Thankfully for now we have a positive end to the story. A month ago my Mum was given a clean bill of health until her next appointment. It has not been an easy road to say the least; which brings me to my next point.
I went on to Facebook yesterday and was confronted multiple times by the following message;
‘One of my friends has suggested that we women should do something special on facebook in order to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s so easy to do, that I’d love you to join in to make this a memorable online event. Last year, the idea was to post the color of the bra you were wearing on facebook…and it left men wondering for days, why women were posting colors, seemingly at random. This year’s game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home; for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser”. Well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status (i.e. don’t respond to this message, but put it on your status) – and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB FEMALE friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s get the purse in as well and see how powerful we women really are!!! REMEMBER – DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! PASS THIS TO EVERYONE’
I have so many qualms with the above that I didn’t immediately know where to begin.
Firstly, I know breast cancer does tend to commonly strike more women than it does men, but even if the men who suffer breast cancer are few, there are many husbands who have watched their wives die at the hands of it, why are we going to raise awareness by keeping men out of the loop?
I expressed my irate with these kinds of “awareness” raising statuses to which I was met with people telling me it was ‘just a bit of fun’, or ‘calm down, its just a game’.
Until you’ve watched a family member have her veins filled with actual poison to kill off another poison, have had to shave her head because her hair is falling out in clumps; had to wipe and re-wipe a toilet seat after use to prevent toxic chemo from being passed on to other people and unless you’ve had to watch in horror as their entire fingernails have fallen off one-by-one, perhaps Facebook users wouldn’t be so quick to call this a game.
Cancer isn’t a game. It’s not just a bit of fun.
Leaving sexually ambiguous statuses about where you keep your hand bag is not going to help anyone; not anyone with breast cancer, not anyone who is helping others suffering from breast cancer and sure as hell not anyone who has lost a loved one at the hands of breast cancer.
This kind of social activism fails for the thinly veiled intention it encompasses, for many reasons.
One of the responses to the aforementioned mass email I received was, “Oooh, I love this, so dirty, lol!”
A response that proves my entire point; no one takes it seriously.
It’s just another form of lazy activism, or as it was named in the case of Kony 2012; slacktivism (and we all know how that didn’t work out).
Young people think its just another opportunity to get away with posting something a bit cheeky on their status (as evident with the response I received), and others think it’s a game and perfectly okay that something awareness raising, should be kept from men.
If everyone was as serious about raising awareness as those playing the ‘game’, on Facebook, they would be pumping money in to breast cancer research which not only goes to science, but also to those who run support services for those currently suffering – and if all of our days at the hospital was anything to go by—there are too many.
If money is an issue, then make yourself aware. Research how to give yourself a breast examination and check often for lumps or take advantage of breast screenings when they are available to you and while you are at it, encourage your friends – male and female to do the same.
Host a fundraiser yourself just as I did and ask your friends to kindly donate.
Don’t reduce breast cancer awareness simply to a game you play on Facebook, it is far more than that.
If you want to do something to raise awareness, check out the National Breast Cancer Foundation for ideas and ways to donate your time or money! http://www.nbcf.org.au/