Why You Should Think Twice Before Supporting So-Called 'Awareness' Viral Campaigns On Social Media

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Andrea Lo 0 Comments

Have you seen all those Facebook statuses people are posting about what city they're moving to, and how long for?

This supposedly originated from a chain message encouraging female users on the social networking site to boost breast cancer awareness.

Of course, this is nothing new. A previous viral campaign purportedly supporting 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month' asked women to post Facebook statuses on the colour of their bra. There was another that ask them to write 'where they like to place their handbags when they get home', resulting in statuses like 'I like it on the floor', 'I like it on my desk' that are supposed to grab your attention by being sexually suggestion at first glance.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the campaign was real (more on the authenticity of similar viral campaigns later). Yes, breast cancer is a disease that affects tens of thousands of women a year, and to boost awareness for it could only be a good thing.

You might argue these are harmless viral campaigns that help draw more attention to the cause. What if it's doing the opposite?

Some of you might remember being asked to change your profile picture to one of a cartoon character, circa November to December 2010, supposedly as part of a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) campaign to help combat child abuse.

The NSPCC released a statement stating that it wasn't responsible for starting the campaign, but added that it welcomed any attention drawn to the cause.

How does making a cartoon your profile picture on Facebook help to stop child abuse?

A few weeks after that, messages began to circulate around warning users the viral campaign was 'actually created by a group of pedophiles' who allegedly wanted to make children more willing to accept their friend requests on Facebook. You can read more about this at Snopes, the leading myth-debunking authority online.

Back to the breast cancer status-posting. Here's what I want to know: is posting online what city you would be living in for any amount of time, the colour of your bra, or where you like to place your handbag, doing anything to actually help the breast cancer cause? Why turn it into some in-joke? Does this mean men with cancer matter less?

I am not against sharing viral content, but people need to think twice about whether their acts of 'slacktivism' is actually helping the cause.