5 Inches

Five inches, that was my status on Facebook one day back in 2010. The request was as simple as my answers; “Put the number, followed by the word inches, and how long it takes to do your hair”. After updating my status, I was asked to forward the request to 5 female friends on Facebook. No males; the joke was to keep them guessing.  The reaction of my male friends on Facebook was hysterical.  Looking back now, I wonder if the request succeeded in relaying its message?

“One of the most powerful forms of social media mobilization is cyberactivism.  Here, individuals utilize the internet to promote a particular cause or charity” (Mahoney & Tan 2017). Every October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Back in 2010, women on Facebook were using several memes to raise awareness for breast cancer research.  The memes cause a sensation online. All of my woman friends on Facebook participated. We all knew someone, a friend of a friend or relative who had breast cancer. For some, it hit even closer to home; they were breast cancer survivors.  Everyone who was in on the origin of the memes had a good laugh, but they also felt good about being part of something making a difference. “Social media provides the tools for mobilization by connecting individuals with a larger social network that feels the same way and is ready to take action. It has distinct inherent properties for facilitating real-life participation” (Mahoney and Tand). The ones that were not in the loop (primarily men) kept guessing.  Several news outlets reported on the memes giving them even more exposure.  It seems as though the memes were a big hit.  The goal was to bring awareness to breast cancer. However, did it bring awareness?

Although the organizations that supported breast cancer research and awareness had nothing to do with the memes, the statuses did spark questions and conversations.  But the Facebook meme fell short of mobilization because the memes were not linked to helpful information or donations.  Mobilization is defined as how candidates, parties, activists, and groups induce other people to participate.  I do not think changing your status to a color or size fits the definition of actively participating for The Cancer Society. The memes would have helped out more if they were linked to the American Cancer Society’s page or videos on pertinent information like giving yourself a breast exam. The intent was there but fell way short.

Another issue was that the message was aimed solely towards women.  Remember, men were kept out of the loop.  The conversation of breast cancer has always been about women, and the Facebook meme aimed only towards a woman.  In reality, men can also get breast cancer. Men being forgotten when it comes to breast cancer pains my heart.  Not only am I a lupus warrior, but I am also experienced 9/11 firsthand.  Years after 9/11, we were told we should get mammograms no matter our ages and other exams.  The breast exams were geared towards the ladies.  A past co-worker and friend of mine was diagnosed and sadly lost his battle with breast cancer.  Yes, HE lost HIS battle with BREAST cancer.  We both ran for our lives on 9/11 and for him to die in that manner is inexcusable.  He never knew men could get breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates for breast cancer in men in the United States for 2021 are:

  • About 2,650 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed
  • About 530 men will die from breast cancer

The memes were not popular because of the amount of money raised for the Cancer Society or of the number of people reached with important information about breast cancer.  It became newsworthy because of the number of people who participated and because it was mischievously funny.  Was it successful in the marketing aspect?  Let us see it in another light. The whole country could be discussing the funny Super Bowl commercial. However, if we are only talking and not buying the product, was that commercial really successful?

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