It’s that time again. Well-meaning people are sending messages on Facebook urging their friends to post hearts or their bra color or whatever else in honor of “breast cancer awareness.”
Here’s one I’ve already had sent to me twice this week:
Hello, can you put a ❤ on your wall, without comment, only a heart, then send this message to your female contacts. After putting one ❤ on the wall of the person who sent you this message. If anyone asks why you have so many hearts on your wall do not answer. It is for women only to remember its the week of breast cancer prevention! ❤ Check your boobies!! Hold your finger down on the message and hit forward.
Oh, there is so much wrong here. For starters, there is no such thing as “the week of breast cancer prevention.” If there was a such week, trust, my ass would’ve been doing whatever possible to “prevent” the hell I’ve been through these past six months.
Second, how on earth is posting a heart on my wall doing anything productive? It even says you’re not supposed to explain it when people ask, so you’re not raising awareness. You’re basically vaguebooking for no good reason.
Third, men get breast cancer, too. Like metastatic breast cancer, male breast cancer is pretty much ignored. And it happens to many men and deserves just as much attention and support as occurrences in women. So, yeah, until this cancer is “for women only,” awareness shouldn’t be.
Fourth–and this is just a personal one for me–reminding me to “check your boobies” really isn’t necessary at this point, considering I’m a month-and-a-half out from a bilateral mastectomy.
If you really want to help raise awareness and/or support those fighting/survivors of breast cancer, there are far more productive things you can do on social media:
- Remind your friends to do monthly self-exams, perhaps posting a link to a how-to, such as this one from Breastcancer.org.
- Share information about metastatic (or Stage IV) breast cancer, which is widely ignored by the media and public at large because, frankly, it’s really sad and scary and usually doesn’t end with a rah-rah survivor story. It’s also one of the least-researched forms of cancer. But the fact is, this is the reality of many women, and even those of us with lesser diagnoses will always face the specter of this beast. Here’s a site with some general info.
- If you can, give. But when you do, be careful about where you give. Some of the most popular breast cancer charities–*cough*Komen*cough*–have issues with where funds go, and how they pretty much ignore the Stage IV community (who need the support and funds the most). Some solid groups doing real good for women fighting this awful disease include METAvivor (which supports Stage IV research and patients), the American Cancer Society (which supports research for all cancers) and the Young Survival Coalition. Also, look into giving to your local cancer center to help women in your own community.
I know people mean well and come from a good place, but rather than being so quick to click and share, stop to think about what you’re sharing, and whether or not it’s actually accomplishing anything. Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness about issues, and if we all used it thoughtfully, there’s no telling the good we could do.