Posts Tagged ‘awareness’

Paved with Good Intentions

Friday, December 10th, 2010

You may have noticed some odd and pervasive behavior on the part of some of your Facebook friends this year.  January brought forth a sudden winter flurry of color statuses.  October launched a startlingly sexual series of “So-and-So likes it on the ________” statuses that made it look like many a good girl had gone bad.  Finally, this month the trend seems to be profile pictures consisting of favorite childhood cartoon characters.

The rationale for these trends is that they raise awareness for issues of health and social concern through Facebook’s powerful social media.  The first two ostensibly supported breast cancer awareness, while the latter supposedly promotes awareness for and support of child abuse survivors.  At first glance, these fads seem well-intentioned and, at worst, harmless.  However, it was upon waking up to the following status in my Facebook newsfeed that I took a closer look at these Facebook crazes:

[name omitted] does not understand how putting cartoon photos up has ANYTHING to do with violent abuse against children.  As a child abuse survivor, I don’t think that I ‘only see [happy] memories’ from these images; instead, they’re part and parcel of the pleasure and pain that was growing up with an abusive parent.”  Later on in the involved comment stream, another poignant phrase from this child abuse victim stuck out to me: “the point of the current meme is ostensibly ‘against’ child abuse, and as an abuse survivor, I find it isolating.”

Facebook users: you’re actually hurting the people you’re trying to support.

This isn’t to say that I have anything personally against the participants in these memes.  I’m sure that you all mean well.  But please reconsider your purported “activism” for the following reasons.

1.  Anonymity is confusing and counterproductive.

More often than not, Facebook “awareness” fads do little but to obfuscate the actual issues at hand.  I’m sure it’s very easy for the uninterested observer to dismiss these awareness efforts as merely another Facebook trend akin to the Doppelgänger phenomenon last year without recognizing their meaning.  Sure, the bra color thing tangentially related to breast cancer.  As an astute male friend of mine remarked, “at least with the bra color thing the average guy only took about 10^-13 seconds to get from bras to breasts.”  But remember, first guys had to sift through and interpret the dozens of random colors to even realize what the colors referred to.

Not-so-obvious awareness tactic

The purse thing directly counters common sense.  If anything, this particular fad intended to conceal the issues.  The Huffington Post cited the trend as a direct effort “to leave men in the dark,” and the Washington Post said “men are not supposed to know what it means.”  So we’re raising awareness by intentionally excluding half of the global population?  Great idea!  One commenter captured the awareness divide perfectly: “Yeah, that’s a great way to get men on board with breast cancer awareness month…alienate them.”  It additionally dilutes the importance of the awareness message: while breast cancer among men is significantly less frequent, men have much poorer survival rates and outcomes due to misdiagnosis.  All the more reason for men to be aware.

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