A recent status update on my Facebook timeline generated a lot of feedback from my friends, more than I expected. It got 100 likes in less than 24 hours. This number of likes may not seem much to you, but my status updates rarely generate that much likes not to mention the number of people who view it without liking it. I liked a post by a friend of mine that read, ‘No toilet paper, goodbye socks’ because I thought it was funny, and it was. What I did not know was that the post was part of a Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. The campaign asks me to make a similar update based on a number of options. I choose the most shocking option, but it also had to be believable. I chose, ‘It’s confirmed, I’m going to be a Daddy!’
Responding to the overwhelming number of texts, calls and comments from my friends became problematic as I felt a bit silly explaining to them that I was not going to be a daddy. How would you tell someone who expressed a genuine emotion of congratulations that you were just joking? How would such a joke feel to those who are trying to have a baby unsuccessfully? The campaign also asks me to request my friends, who liked and commented, to make a similar post. It would put those who do not appreciate such games in an awkward position. They would not want to be spoilsports, and they would still want to honor my request, but it would make them extremely uncomfortable. What about my friends who would feel aggrieved by some of the options I would put forth to them that they may consider insensitive.
I decided to write an article to explain the post to everyone the circumstances that led to the post with a clear title for those who would not want to read the entire article. I posted the update because I believe that the campaign achieves its aim, but I admit that it does so at a cost. The goal outweighs the cost and, for this reason, encouraging the campaign was a worthwhile endeavor though doing so regularly would dilute the campaign making it redundant. It would also increase doubtfulness among my friend on my future updates when it comes to such issues.
Creating awareness is vital because Africans do not know much about breast cancer. For instance, most Kenyans do not know that it accounts for 25% of all cancer cases in women worldwide. In addition, they do not know that 50% of breast cancer cases occur in developing nations while 58% of the deaths from it occur in the same countries. Most of us think that it is mostly an issue for the First World states. Inadequate levels of awareness, prevention and control in the developing world may be the reason behind a higher death rate in the third world vis-à-vis developed countries.
The few online Breast Cancer campaigns I have seen are ineffective, alarmist or unethical. For example, the impact of a single status update on breast cancer statistics in the morning will last until lunchtime. Sharing images of normal breasts or breasts affected by this disease is not something that everyone is comfortable doing. Seeing them online would make other people uncomfortable. The same goes for sharing images of bras. The ‘save second base’ or ‘save the boobies’ campaigns are creative but they objectify women.
We should also note that some people pounce on such opportunities. They would share seemingly audacious and provocative updates using the campaign as a cover. Their images and updates on breast cancer would quickly take on a ‘sexy’ dimension with supporting phrases such as ‘What? It is just breasts/bras, and it is for cancer awareness?’ when questioned about it.
Having considering all these facts, I feel that the online Facebook campaign is harmless and ingenious as it reaches many people, and it does so quickly. Yes, it comes with some costs such as putting friends in an awkward position and hurting people’s feelings when they realize it was just a joke. It also reduces levels of believability in future in the person making the post. Those costs last for a time, but the awareness for cancer would last for a greater period.
I do not believe the posts are offensive to people facing unique circumstances such as the gay community or those seeking a child. The intention of the post is shock and awe without being intrusive unlike images, which are in your face or unethical slogans that annoy you each time you hear them. The posts contain jokes one can make in almost every environment e.g. church, workplace, home or school while achieving the same level of shock or awe without offending most people. Some people choose to feel offended at times, which is especially the case when you are not intrusive.
Breast cancer is an issue especially for the developing world where information for it is scanty. The African Cancer Foundation in Kenya seems to be doing an excellent job of creating awareness though there is more we can all do to support this endeavor. This Breast Cancer campaign game on Facebook seems trivial, but it will get the job done without many hullabaloos. Personally, I cannot ask my friends to make these status updates since I have many conservative friends. Doing so would be placing them in an awkward position. I am less reserved, and I am always willing to create a bit of controversy with a moral twist. Just so that y’ all know, ‘I am not going to be a daddy, yet.’