Since 2006, Facebook has allowed us to share constant pointless status updates with our friends, family and strangers, changing the way we communicate. You can now see what your friends eat for lunch, who is fighting with their spouse and when that old co-worker got a new job. It also has allowed countless hoaxes, misinformation and chain letter forward spam to flourish, which in my opinion, includes status updates for charity.
Very few if anyone on this planet has not been touched negatively by cancer, myself included. It’s why it’s often used as the “awareness” for these “do good” campaigns. What’s missing from these forwards is – facts, action, results. If you see one of these things pop into your feed, instead of blindly updating and cut and pasting onward, Why not call up a local organization and donate some money to the cause? Strapped for cash? You can easily volunteer for the afternoon. After actually “doing good”, then you can take some photos and post about that (heck even attach it to the forward!) I know that is way more effort than 99% of people reading this are wiling to do and if that IS you, then consider WHY are you updating and forwarding on. Take a good look at yourself before hitting that share button and guilt people you know into also spreading ‘awareness’.
Before I go any farther, I want to make it very clear that I don’t want anyone to get cancer. I’d also love to end child abuse, animal abuse and stop all sexual predators. I think that goes for pretty much every decent person. This post is about how I don’t believe these Slacktivism filled Facebook posts will do it.
What is Slacktivism?
Oxford Defines Slacktivism as – Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement. It is a highly debated topic some saying “some is better than none” or “it is not hurting anyone”, others saying it causes people to be more lazy and less likely to actually donate or get involved. Unicef made it pretty clear their stance on the topic with a campaign about
how likes just are not enough. Watch this pretty touching legit YouTube Ad from Unicef Sweden.
You’ve seen these things before…
“I intend to fill Facebook with comic book heroes for childhood cancer awareness. Give me a like and I will assign you a character.”
“I know nobody will read my status but sometimes, when I’m bored, I get wrapped up in a sleeping bag and lather butter all over myself and slide around the kitchen floor pretending I’m a slug.”
“List the color of your bra in your FB status, just the color, nothing more. Then send this message to your girlfriends’ inboxes, too … no men.The point is to see how far we can spread breast cancer awareness … and make the men wonder what’s up :)”
“In support of anti-child violence, change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. Until Monday Dec. 6, there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. Join the fight against CHILD ABUSE. Invite your friends to do the same.”
These are some of the recent ones you’ve likely seen or participated in, in the last few years. But what exactly do they all mean?
That magical word awareness is associated with these campaigns usually. That is the only fact sort of thing associated with the campaign. Cancer awareness. Child abuse awareness. Animal abuse awareness. Awareness. … Are people not aware that children get cancer? Is anyone, like actually not aware of that fact? Perhaps so more importantly, do they become aware of that because someone updated their Facebook profile photo to a comic book hero? … “Oh why are you the Hulk today on Facebook….CHILDREN GET CANCER?!?!? WHAT???”. Because there is no specifics in these posts – what conversations are actually going on about the topic? There is no information, facts, links? You might have a brief conversation about the topic with uh, the information you already knew about the topic, and there might be a few moments thought about a topic you weren’t otherwise thinking about. Otherwise, take a long hard look in the mirror because you know in your heart/mind that the truth – these updates are not doing anything but making you feel good.
People can justify their lack of actual involvement by caring just enough to hit a like, share or update button. The comic book characters aren’t raising money, likes aren’t ending poverty and shares are not stopping predators. Many people who do these activities, although meaning well are actually just being lazy. Instead of actually doing something that could help these causes, like donating, volunteering or heck even providing some facts and educating their Facebook friends – most instead feel they have “done good today” by updating a photo and continue scrolling down their Facebook feed.
Rarely, if ever, are these “update your status/photo” trends associated with any official organization. In fact, returning to the history of where they originated from, most of these “do good” campaigns started as pranks or jokes. It wasn’t until some clever morphing later, that someone will add in “for cancer / children abuse / animal abuse awareness”. That is why there is never any REAL call to action associated with these things. There are no facts or links to official organizations. There is no link to donate to money to the cause if you don’t do it.The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge larger used as an example of success had a noticeable difference, but even it had different origins.
The History of These Campaigns.
I thought it would be a good idea to return to the start… Where did these campaigns come from? Not surprisingly, almost all of the campaigns I took the time to research started out as jokes.
The color of bra on facebook? It started in 2009, before the viral breast cancer awareness spread It existed to simply to bug the boys.
“Right girls let’s have some fun. write the color of the bra you’re wearing right now as your status on fb and dont tell the boys. they will be wondering what all the girls are doing with colors as their status. forward this to all the girls online“.
The Cartoon photos? Started in Greece in 2010 “From the 16th to the 20th of November, we shall change our profile pictures to our favorite cartoon characters. The purpose of this game is to remove all photos of human for a few days from Facebook.” The cartoon network got involved in that one. Made a Fan Page all just for fun. In Dec 2010 the movement changed to being Child abuse awareness. It also morphed again to idiocy levels when messages like this went around -“ATTN:The group asking everyone to change their profile pictures to their favorite cartoon character is actually a group of pedophiles . They are doing it because kids will accept their friend request faster if they see a cartoon picture. It has nothing to do with supporting child abuse and violence, IT’S ON TONIGHT’S NEWS. Copy and paste this to your status, let everyone know now !!!”
Much like its previous predecessors, The comic book for child cancer awareness trend started out as :
“I intend to fill Facebook with cute baby animals to fight the saturation of all the negative images and videos. Give me a like and I will assign you a baby animal.” Flowers, and eventually star wars characters also made the rounds – Finally resulting in the most popular “comic book heroes” version – “I intend to fill Facebook with comic book heroes to fight the saturation of all the negative images and videos. Give me a like and I will assign you a character.” The negative images version of this without cancer awareness is still being shared today. Comic book hero’s morphed into child cancer awareness most recently and the trend has really taken off. Even ‘the famous’ are sharing it. This one really annoyed me because its “call to action” is comic book heroes. Most people only know a handful of them, so people had to spend time and energy looking up more comic book heroes than the typical examples. This campaign arguably created “comic book hero” awareness.
Ice Bucket Challenge
In June 22nd, 2014, professional motocross racer Jeremy McGrath uploaded the first found video of someone dumping a bucket of ice over their head. McGrath challenged professional golfer Rickie Fowler and NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson, as well as rapper Vanilla Ice to complete the challenge or pay $100 to charity. Notice the call to action. Eventually, Professional golfer Chris Kennedy, was actually the first to upload a video and use ALS as the challenging charity because his sisters husband suffers from ALS. Pat Quinn an ambassador for ALS, saw the video and create a facebook page for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and it was noticed by several influential people. The rest is history.
— Chris Kennedy (@ckgolfsrq) July 15, 2014
I would like to point out the large difference here.
In the Ice Bucket Challenge, there was always a specific call to action associated with the social media item. You had to dump freezing water on your head, and dare someone else OR chicken out and pay a charity. Many did include links to the ALS facebook Fan Page or website. Do you see the difference between this and the current social media update your profile photo? I sure hope so. Many people also felt that the Ice bucket challenge was also Slacktivism. Many didn’t donate or even include the “donate to charity” part of the message in the spreading. Many spent quite a few bucks on buying bags of ice. What if they just donated that money instead? But I will say, it got people talking about a specific disease and many people DID donate because of the call to action.
There are Others…
There are oh so many others that fit into this same forward spam theme – They usually involved CUT AND PASTE THIS STATUS UPDATE.
” I wonder if anyone could put this as their status for 1 hour. I’m pretty sure I know who will do it. Think of someone you know that has cancer, had cancer or died because of cancer. My wish is that a cure is found in 2012. Will you post it for 1 hour? To honor those who have fought, are fighting against cancer and died of cancer!!”
“May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just needs to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the wallsof all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, NO sharing”
“… Copy this and let your friends know. If you get anything like this from me, please tell me and report it immediately to Facebook. Copy and Paste.. PLEASE do NOT share!”
“…For all my friends, whether close or casual, just because. This is one of the longest posts I will ever make, and one of the most real too. Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn’t easy….”
These are about the same, if not worse, as the previous mentioned items. What does updating for 1 hour do? No facts, No links, no calls to action. As mentioned. Pretty much any decent human is against these things or wants to remember loved ones who have suffered. I am not sure exactly what the point of these are in any way.
So What Have We Learned
These campaigns usually start out as a pure joke or spam forward. No social awareness attached. Then some well meaning person somewhere, attaches “for X awareness” to the spam forward. That awareness attachment is usually enough to cause more people to get “involved” and blindly share the meme on without attaching any real information, websites or donation options. Your feed will be effected for a day or two, and then return to normal. How much of this actually effects “the cause” that was picked? How many conversations were actually had? How many truly… ?
Which brings me to the end…
If you are going to share regardless of all I have said here – Please at least take a few moments and Google an organization that is involved with the cause. Find their donation page. Find some facts about the cause. ANYTHING that actually does create some kind of knowledge and actual awareness and then if you truly must share – include these things IN your share. That is at least creating something to actually talk about. Otherwise, you are not causing awareness about anything except annoying most of your friends. Passing on the lame forward and donating time, money, resources to the cause is also a great alternative.
If you do that, these causes will thank you. I thank you too.
Have you seen other forwards like this? Share them in the comments!