Awareness

It’s started again.

To give them credit, it took me a while to get it, this time around. I genuinely believed that a disproportionate number of my friends were going abroad for sustained periods of time.

Then finally it clicked – a number combined with an arbitrary ‘thing’, a place, or a sweet, or a type of pony, whatever. Yes, folks. It was the return of the ghastly ‘awareness-raising’ update.

Check your inbox. Chances are you’ll have seen something like this:

“Girls! I just don’t feel like anyone is commenting on my Facebook wall at the moment, and it’s bringing me down. I feel unloved and devoid of attention. I’ve decided that we should all confuse the male population, poor things, by posting nonsensical statii (that’s a thing!) that will surely garner lots of comments and widespread bemusement.

Want to join in? Follow these instructions.

Oh, and if anyone asks, yeah….it’s like, raising awareness for breast cancer and stuff. “

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t exactly that. But I’m afraid I’m showing no mercy this morning. The general upshot is that people then post these ridonculous updates which in no way relate to the topic, and in NO way raise awareness.

Awareness of what? Breast cancer? Oh, what’s that? I’ve never heard of it. I think we all know what breast cancer is, and that, in general, it’s bad. I would be less brutal if the original message sent around reminded women to check the health of their own breasts, or to contribute something to charity, or….well, anything, really.

And I am not blameless (I am never, ever blameless.) I myself have done it. I mindlessly went along with it, not really engaging my brain, not wondering for a second how exactly this was doing anything for anyone. It isn’t getting people to donate. It isn’t getting anyone to give up their time to help, and as I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t even remind women to check themselves. The messages sent round seem to be geared more at confusing the male population.

‘But it’s fun!’ you cry. Is it? ‘Fun’ for me is getting tanked up on pink bubbles and doing the Charleston with Cumberbatch. Not popping a random series of words on my Facebook page and pretending I’m doing something useful.

I Googled it, and it seems to be a bit of a ‘hot button topic’, as Adam and Joe are so fond of calling such things. It appears to totally divide the population, with half saying ‘what the hell is the point?’ and the other half going ‘but it raises awareness’. And sure, maybe at first it did, because it was originally about bra colour – related to breasts, see? – and might have happened around the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But now, cycle after cycle has rolled by. It’s January and I’m still seeing it. I apologise if you devote hours of your life to fundraising or supporting the cause, and you happen to find it worthwhile to put on your wall. What I can’t forgive is what one blog dubbed ‘Slacktivism’. I Wiki-ed it (welcome back, Wiki!):

“Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research. [1]

Slacktivist activities include signing Internet petitions,[2] joining a community organization without contributing to the organization’s efforts, copying and pasting of Social Network statuses or messages or altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS describes the term “slacktivist”, saying it “posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”.[3]

Crikey. Look, this is my second rant-y post in as many weeks. I appear to be turning into Charlie Brooker, but in a dress. I apologise for that, my blog is usually a place of positivity, good humour, and general inspiring bits and bobbles. But I feel strongly about this little conundrum, and I’m going to speak up about it.

My Google search revealed many people who felt the same. The worst thing was reading blog posts by cancer survivors, saying they didn’t get it. And worse still were the voices who spoke up about the ‘I’m 6 weeks and craving’ posts. Aggressive cancer treatments can leave survivors infertile. One woman described how she’d sobbed, convinced that by some weird coincidence a handful of her friends were all pregnant, while she herself would never have children.

Please, just think about it next time. Think about what it’s actually achieving, in real terms. Sure, for a minute or so you might get a smug glow of feeling like you’ve done something – I know, I’m sure I had that when I did it. But come on, girls. We can prove we’re more intelligent than this, surely? Let’s demonstrate to society that we don’t just loll around thinking up ways to annoy/confuse men, like some sort of play by Sheridan.

Let’s accept that we’ve all done it, and it was a bit fun at the time, but that ultimately, IT ISN’T DOING ANYTHING if that is all you’re going to do. There are so many easy ways of getting involved with helping a charity. Just give a bit of money. Can’t afford it? No worries, it’s a recession – how about doing a sponsored run? Not a runner? That’s fine. Donate a bit of your time.

Come on, guys. Don’t be a Slacktivist. You know, you can still post a status about breast cancer awareness? It doesn’t have to tell the world about your bra colour/imply to the social network that you’re pregnant. And please stop trying to confuse The Men.

Peace out,

Amelia

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2 thoughts on “Awareness

  1. I really agree with you! An old friend of mine emailed me about the going abroad one, and I didn’t do it because it’s pointless! Like you say, at least the bra colour one was vaguely related! Slacktivism is my new favourite word… xx

    • Thank you! I was surprised at how many people were very supportive of it as a concept. With the original, I could at least vaguely see the link – bra, breasts etc. But not entirely sure how seeing that someone is going to Malasia for 5 years is going to help support a charity, or remind anyone to check themselves?! Xx

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