Message lost in Facebook fad

Jessica likes it on the velvety red sofa, Pooja likes it on her marble kitchen table and Cristina likes it under the bed. Excellent choice of soft textured fabric Jessica, good decision on choosing a surface that leaves no scratches Pooja, and gosh Cristina, you dirty, dirty girl! Of course, I'm referring to the dozens of status updates that my female friends posted on Facebook last week, referring to where they like to keep their purse. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the "I like it on…" trend is a way for women to unite to support the cause in a top-secret manner, leaving us men in the dark. This method of gaining support for breast cancer awareness isn't anything new. In January, women posted the color of their bra as their status updates. Although these messages have gone viral through Facebook, how effective are they in promoting awareness for each woman that dies every 13 minutes due to breast cancer?

The idea behind these campaigns is to have men asking questions. This gives the women the opportunity to discuss the importance of awareness and for society as a whole to become more educated on the topic of breast cancer. I must admit, I was left in the dark guessing at what this status could mean. Was I the only person who didn't understand these updates and why weren't guys posting them—these were the questions running through my mind. The first status update I read came from a shy, timid girl that I viewed as being soft-spoken. Her status read, "I like it on the floor," my mouth dropped and I thought to myself, "Wow, she really grew some balls (figuratively speaking)." After a few days of being bombarded with similar status updates, I decided to Google the message and learned from The Huffington Post that it was meant to raise awareness for breast cancer. Unfortunately, my search ended there and I learned nothing more about breast cancer other than October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Apparently, some of my male Facebook friends didn't even research the message as intended. One friend wrote, "Since everyone is doing it, I like it in the shower."

For every person that researched or asked what this sexual innuendo meant, how many more have taken it literally and viewed it as the "new thing" to do? Perhaps this message has failed, leading people to poke fun at a very serious disease that kills more than 40,000 women annually. One individual wrote in The Daily Targum's editorial Oct. 6 that, "[These statuses] … instead of making us aware of breast cancer and ways to prevent it, hints at sexual innuendos. Under these innuendos and false meanings, breast cancer awareness gets lost."

Come on guys, how could we have missed this — obviously where women place their purse relates to breast cancer, doesn't it? At least posting the color of bras is tangentially related to breast cancer, even if it wasn't completely cohesive with the cause. Even the "Save the Ta-Tas" campaign, featuring fit, young and most likely cancer-free women in tight T-shirts, raises money to fight cancer, according to the Express-Times. I feel that last week's updates did a great job by including women in a vital cause, however some news organizations feel these status campaigns cheapen real cancer fights. Instead of a flirty friend posting the message, what if your mother or aunt wrote a status update stating that they like it on the wall, would you still be interested? I also have a question for the women who posted a variation of this message as your status update: Would you have posted a message that wrote, "October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: about 191,410 women are being diagnosed each year—please help?" Really, do you actually keep your purse between your legs or upside down from the rooftop? Probably not, but I don't blame you for writing it. The Facebook generation has the option of games like these that serve a dual-purpose: advertising the need for action supporting a particular cause, while also having fun and competing for the most creative innuendo among friends.

One of my favorite writers, best-selling author and staff writer for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell believes that viral messages, along with social media activism, are hollow and meaningless. In his essay, "Small Change," he writes that popular belief holds that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are effective at increasing motivation. However, Gladwell believes that social networks are effective at increasing participation, by reducing the level of motivation that participation involves. In terms of breast cancer awareness, he may say that Facebook will help increase the number of people who say they are supporting the cause, but don't actually add more energy to the movement. It's easy to "like" a breast cancer awareness page or post a creative status update to get attention and make yourself seem like you're fighting for a noble cause, although you're actually not doing much else. It's as if some people are participating in the breast cancer awareness movement on Facebook for all of the wrong reasons.

The issue of breast cancer is truly a significant one. It can affect any person in your life ranging from your mother to your best friend to your professor. Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women— about 191,410 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and about 40,000 die from it. If you would like to help, you can go to organizations such as "Susan Komen for the Cure" at komen.org.

Amit Jani is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, "The Fourth Estate," runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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