Sunday, September 4, 2011

Won't You Please Repost This? (Pleeeease?)

We interrupt our regular Momsperiment parent-ramblings to bring you this important message:

So how many weeks along are you - four, six, twelve? And what are you craving - Reese's Pieces? Junior Mints? Salmon-skin sushi with spicy tuna topping, followed by boiled rutabaga and passionfruit sorbet?

And if you're three weeks along and eating doughnuts, does that mean you're not hanging your purse on the bedpost anymore? Or wearing a purple lace bra? It's so hard to keep track nowadays. But the important thing is that you're posting the message on Facebook and telling all your friends to do the same, because this will help raise awareness of breast cancer and make the world a better place.

Unless you can't do it just yet because your news feed is already taken up ("just for an hour!") by an awareness-raising message for cancer of all varieties...or domestic violence...or animal abuse...or bullying...or autism...or troops serving overseas...or mental illness...or omphaloskepsis.

Or maybe you've been overwhelmed by so many of these "awareness" requests that you've quietly begun to ignore them all, or to post a wise-ass parody like, "Please repost this if you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, or knows someone whose second cousin twice removed knows someone. And for Pete's sake, don't forget the hearts! <3 <3 <3"

You get the point. We've all seen these memes on our friends' news feeds, and possibly reposted one or two ourselves because we thought it was meaningful. But maybe it's time to think before we blindly do the copy-and-paste thing yet again.

This new "craving" meme for breast cancer awareness is misguided on several levels. First, as this blogger points out, it doesn't take into account the millions of women struggling with infertility who don't take pregnancy announcements lightly. They'd love nothing more than to share their bumps and cravings with their FB friends, and it hurts to see other women casually tossing around preggy-speak, however well-intentioned.

Second, how does passing along coy little messages about candy and bras advance the cause of breast cancer? It doesn't add a penny toward research or offer any real help to the women who are either living with the disease or reclaiming their lives after treatment. The message links to no pertinent sites, provides no follow-up, offers no information about a disease that's anything but sweet as Hershey's Kisses.

More baffling still, we're supposed to keep this secret from all the guys on our friend list - as if this were some cute little Girl Code about makeup or bachelorette parties. If anything, shouldn't men be brought more deeply into the dialogue? Shouldn't they learn more about the various types and stages of breast cancer, the targeted treatments, the odds of recurrence? Shouldn't they be encouraged to do some homework before buying pink-ribbon products to make sure enough of the proceeds are actually going toward research? Shouldn't they learn how to support and empathize with women terrified that their disease may cost them their femininity and sexiness - not to mention their lives?

That's the whole problem with these social media "awareness" posts. They give us a brief frisson of do-gooder satisfaction - Look how much I really care! - without actually having to go out of our way to do anything more concrete. In their most obnoxious form, they tack on a little guilt trip for good measure: 93% of you won't bother to repost this (and if you don't, it means you're an uncaring, un-American scumbucket who probably kicks little old ladies in the ribs for fun).

"But isn't it good that I'm making my Facebook friends aware of these important issues?" you ask. Sure, awareness is great. Knowledge beats ignorance any day of the week. But without action, awareness is pointless: it's like blowing a kiss and saying "Hang in there!" to a drowning man flailing in the water.

A breast cancer survivor may be grateful that her friends feel strongly about the topic, but given the choice, she'd probably prefer that they donate some money toward research, or better yet, bring some dinner to her family when she's too tired and nauseated from chemo to cook. A mom of a child on the autism spectrum may appreciate the thought that someone's aware of the condition - but when her child is having a sensory meltdown in the supermarket, will that "aware" person glare at her or make some comment about "mothers who can't control their bratty kids"?

Instead of creating or reposting yet another "awareness" meme, what if we were to post something specific we did as a result of our newfound knowledge? Imagine if our friends' walls were filled with messages like this:

My son and his friends were trash-talking about a classmate they think is gay. I'm sitting him down tonight for a long talk about tolerance and bullying, and I think the school principal ought to know about this, too.

Just got back from a nice lunch with a good friend. Her mother has Alzheimer's, and she was grateful for the chance to take a break from caregiving and vent a little. Here's what she wishes people knew about this disease...

Starting a bake sale fund-raiser on the 21st for IAVA, the first and largest organization specifically offering support to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Message me for details on contributing baked goods or to donate money to this worthy cause!!

Now those are the kinds of posts we all should be craving.

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