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‘Cancer Awareness Selfies’ have potential

Huzzah! It seems the stagnant and nauseating dust of ‘Neknominate’ has finally cleared from our Facebook timelines. Much like the ‘Crazy Frog’ and his flaccid penis (why didn’t he wear trousers?), we can consign it to the annals of shameful internet history (of which I have much to offer). Consider it one of the many things that the internet is desperately trying to forget after a heavy night out. However, in recent days, a very different phenomenon has surfaced. That is: the ‘Cancer Awareness Selfie’.

The principal of this idea is simple. Post a selfie devoid of make-up and nominate others to follow suit. The chain continues, widens and grows until Facebook comes to resemble the antithesis of your local Boots store.

I happen to think that this is a great thing; more so in a society which heaps pressure on young women to look permanently pristine. Stick the finger up at the tabloids, at ‘UniTIT’, at ‘The Sad Bible’, at everything that subjects women to unjust scrutiny. Having the confidence to do so is without a doubt commendable. If this trend was a response to the above then it would of course be perfectly logical. However, what on earth is the link to cancer?

The fact is that there isn’t one unless you donate. To simply say, ‘I’m raising awareness’ is tantamount to me posting a ‘Poverty Awareness Selfie’ with an empty tube of Pringles and a melancholic expression. Even that would have more relevance. Yes, I may have mentioned an important issue, but nothing has been achieved. It is simply a matter of your Facebook friends temporarily seeing your face and nothing coming of it, besides a possible tap on the back.

And what are you raising awareness for? A picture of your face accompanied by some sort of generic support message for charities is hardly worth the 3G use. A specific message, possibly relating to women making sure that they speak to a GP about the possibility of a faulty gene, would be far more productive.

These fads represent an easy opportunity to jump on a moral bandwagon without doing anything productive. The bandwagon in question is being pulled by the numerous charities who undertake brilliant work and those who support them. The non-donating selfie takers are simply reclining on the backseat, waving at the masses, basking in the praise of others.

Of course, if donating to a relevant charity became a prerequisite of this fad then there would be no reason to disagree with it. Yet, at the time of writing, I have only seen a handful of individuals that have actually donated. The rest are merely futile attempts to show support for a cause without doing anything at all. In essence, charity narcissism minus the giving.

Some have suggested that this is no different to ‘Movember’ in the sense that most participants have not donated. This is fair, and I would apply many of the same arguments to ‘Movember’. That is to say that without actually raising money it is a self-indulgent and attention seeking act. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – just don’t disguise it as charitable.

You may well tell me to simply scroll past these photos and move on. This would of course be fair if I disagreed with them in principal. However, I don’t because the concept has great potential for good that could easily be realised. I would simply like to encourage people to donate any amount to a relevant charity and continue the chain as normal.

If ‘Neknominate’ went viral then I’m certain this can do the same. Surely it will be a great opportunity missed if thousands of people post without donating? That said, it is reassuring to learn that not every viral trend involves reckless stupidity. I was worried there for a second.

On a personal note, my grandad passed away in 2011 as a result of very aggressive lung cancer. Macmillan was beyond helpful in providing guidance, regular visits and assisting with the relevant documentation during what was a very tough time. 99% of their funding comes from charitable donations so every penny really can make a difference, however cliché that may sound. My auntie is also currently suffering from breast cancer for the second time and once again Macmillan has shown fantastic support. I cannot recommend donating enough to this charity; or in fact any other cancer charity of your choice.

Facebook is a powerful tool – so please do donate. Without your support then this fad will be a chance let slip. Donate, and then you can  take as many goddam selfies as you like. (Within reason of course).

Gareth Evans

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