Facebook “Activists” and Breast Cancer Awareness Facebook Updates

We’re now over halfway through Breast Cancer Awareness month, and once again Facebook is full of cryptic and attention seeking status updates:

I like it on the dresser.


I’m 14 weeks and craving skittles.

I am going to France for 6 months.

Know what it is yet? Yes, these cryptic statuses posted by fellow women are apparently somehow raising awareness of breast cancer. I wasn’t going to blog about it as this lady wrote a great post on the subject, but this morning I am feeling the need to throw my tuppence worth out there.

For the unaware, here is an example of a message landing in the inbox, about this so-called awareness raising game:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Status OK pretty ladies, it’s that time of year again…support of breast cancer awareness! So last year’s game was writing your bra color as your facebook 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 of status reminded everyone why we’re doing this and helped raise awareness! Do NOT tell any males what the status means…keep them guessing!! And please COPY and PASTE this in a message to all your female friends. The idea is to choose the month you were born and the day you were born. Pass this on to GIRLS ONLY and let’s see how far it reaches. The last one about the bra went all over the world. Instructions: The month you were born is the Place you are going, and the day you were born should be how many months you are gone…. January – Mexico; February – London; March – Miami; April – Dominican Republic; May – Paris; June – Rome; July – Hawaii; August – California; September – New York; October – Puerto Rico; November – Las Vegas; December – Australia. If your birthday is 21st January, YOUR STATUS SHOULD READ: “I am going to Mexico for 21 months”. Don’t reply to this, put your answer in a status on your wall. Please do it, don’t be a spoil sport

First things first, there are several versions of this going around, as illustrated above in the Facebook status examples. This one is about a holiday, the first one is about where you leave your handbag whilst making it look like it’s where you enjoy sex, the second one is your bra colour and the third one is to make people think you are pregnant, which is worthy of a rant all by itself (how is faking a pregnancy ever appropriate?). However, this just goes to show that the comment about “last year” is inaccurate – this is a chain letter which frequently does the Facebook rounds. However, the gist is the same – pass on to GIRLS ONLY. Got that? Very important. GIRLS ONLY.

How does excluding 50% of the population of the world raise awareness?

Leading on from the above, GIRLS ONLY. Men can get breast cancer too. Men are widowed by breast cancer. Men support their girlfriends, wives, family and friends through breast cancer. So if you really want to to raise awareness of something, why are you not telling the men what it is about? That’s excluding 50% of the population of the world and thus not really raising awareness. There is also the fact that most people are indeed aware of the existence of breast cancer (1 in 8 women in the UK will be diagnosed in their lifetime), so if you really want to raise awareness of how awful it is, do something that might be useful and remind people to check for lumps and bumps instead!

A cryptic Facebook status achieves nothing. Do something instead.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t raise awareness for the reasons stated above, money is not magically donated to breast cancer research and posting your bra colour doesn’t tell people how to check their breasts. You may temporarily feel like you have done something worthwhile, but stop and think about it for a minute. Have you? No. You may have decided you want to do something, but try doing something useful. Donate money, run a marathon. Haven’t the time or the money for fundraisers or donating? No problem, why not remind people to check their breasts or post a link to the NHS Breast Cancer Awareness page to show them what to check for? Educate instead. Education is key. I know I am more likely to pay attention to a reminder or some useful information than I am a jokey status update.

Raising awareness IS good

I think a few people wrongly believe that I am against raising awareness. This could not be further from the truth. My friend’s lovely mum died a few years ago from breast cancer and it was heartbreaking, especially for her family. My point is, that this isn’t awareness. To go back to the point about men, it isn’t widely known that men can also suffer. Therefore excluding men prevents awareness. Raising awareness is reminding people of the existence, telling people where they can go to get help, advising people on what they can do to help themselves and simply reminding people to be aware of their bodies. This goes for all types of cancer and other illnesses. Choosing not to share a stupid status doesn’t mean I don’t care.

Oh, but it’s just for fun!

Call me a killjoy then, but I don’t think it’s funny when I get excited that a friend is pregnant and then it turns out it is just a “joke” to raise awareness for breast cancer. Faking pregnancy is disrespectful. As for the other statuses, fair enough if you think it’s a cute, silly, joke. I don’t. Play the game if you wish, but don’t kid yourself it’s for breast cancer.

The Breast Cancer Site

Finally, have you heard of The Breast Cancer Site? You can click once a day and once enough clicks have been registered, the sponsors will pay for someone to receive a free mammogram. This is a for-profit website and on average, 1.3 mammograms a day are provided to women in need, with approximately 45,000 clicks required to fund a single mammogram. There are plenty of arguments for and against whether this website is really achieving much good, but at a single second required to click for free and the possibility of lives being saved, you may decide that this is a good website to add to your favourites. At least you know your clicks are adding up to benefit someone.

Edited to add… : Wow, I’m quite surprised that so many people have shared this on Facebook and Twitter – thank you. And whether or not you agree, thank you for taking the time to read this. However, one point I would like to make is the fact that quite a few people think I have missed the point of awareness. Awareness is not awareness if it is kept a secret. This doesn’t just apply to keeping it secret from men (who let’s face it will know their partners’ boobs better than most and therefore can catch changes if they know what to look for) but also the fact that a lot of women don’t know what it’s immediately about either. True awareness of breast cancer, like with all cancers is making sure that everyone knows and not keeping it a secret. If you want to raise awareness on Facebook, why not remind your friends to check their breasts, or even simply state “don’t forget it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month”.

Useful links and further information:

NHS Breast Cancer Awareness

The Breast Cancer Site

Macmillan Breast Cancer Advice

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is also urging women to text SIGNS to 70500 to get their free credit-card sized TLC guide. Not only does the guide detail the key signs and symptoms of breast cancer, it also includes information about what to do if you notice anything unusual. Its handy size means women can keep it somewhere useful, such as in a handbag or on the nightstand, that will act as a helpful reminder to check their breasts.

5 thoughts on “Facebook “Activists” and Breast Cancer Awareness Facebook Updates

  1. Having lost a family member to cancer, i’m stunned to see how posting a cryptic message about implying where you like sex, is raising awareness about cancer. A re-hashed facebook chain letter which has been doing the rounds AGAIN!! and which carries the brilliant line of do not tell men (Half the population of the world) is going to help.

    And to be told you are missing the point of it, is probably more annoying than the actual topic itself.

  2. I agree and posted a link to my Facebook page before (hopefully) my friends started doing it. I think I was a bit late, but I posted it anyway.

    I like your additional edits too. Just to be clear.

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