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Social media and cancer awareness: Crossing a line


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According to the American Cancer Society, “In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US.” I am willing to bet that isn’t the kind of information you are seeing pop up on your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter feeds in relation to this topic.

Instead of sharing the facts, many statuses, hashtags, photos and more have begun to surface on social media sites, all claiming that they are simply raising awareness and showing support for cancer.

One particular hashtag has been trending on Instagram for the past few weeks in an attempt to raise awareness for testicular cancer. The problem is that the act is a bit obscene, and doesn’t seem to raise the right kind of awareness. Males have taken to posing, either alone or with friends, wearing no clothing except a sock over their private parts.

Personally, I do not want to open my Instagram app and find photos of individuals I know barely clothed. It almost seems like a way for individuals to get attention instead of actually raising awareness for a serious cause.

Some of you may have encountered the Facebook status of “I just won $7,000 on a scratch off lottery ticket,” or another ridiculously crafted statement. As the number of ‘likes’ and comments increases, the status’ creator just sits back and waits for the perfect time to share the point of this “game.” The point of it is simple: If you liked or commented on the status, you have to go change your status to one of the 10 choices sent to you. Those who do this believe that by mentioning the point of the status was to raise awareness for breast cancer is actually doing just that. I hate to break it to you, but it is not.

Some females have also started posting photos of themselves without make-up, thinking this is a clever way to show their support and educate about cancer. Yes, natural beauty is awesome to flaunt, but it is not doing anything to inform individuals about the topic at hand.

Jessica Humphreys, a Berwick social media expert, stated that the photos have actually sparked more of a discussion on how the individual looks without make-up on, rather than about cancer, as reported by Brittany Shanahan.

This trend, in particular, began in the UK and had individuals raising money for the cause. Women would post a photo without make-up, and their friends and family would donate money to breast cancer research. In the U.S., individuals are not doing that. Instead, they are just posting a photo of themselves saying they are raising awareness for cancer.

Now, not all trending tags or photos are as absurd as these examples. Some are actually used to effectively raise awareness and inform individuals.

#BCSM, standing for Breast Cancer Social Media, is a hashtag that individuals have used on Twitter. According to, #BCSM “is a dynamic online network and community dedicated exclusively to women and men affected by breast cancer.” It was a place for individuals to come together to share facts, stories and more. Sadly, the tag has been a dying one.

I am all about showing support for cancer awareness and research, and I also support sharing information that pertains to the topic. However, some of the seemingly irrelevant photos and games are doing nothing for the cause. All they do is portray some ridiculous generational game.

Instead of posing in a rather obscene way or posting a status that makes absolutely no sense, post a scientific article that describes new advances and discoveries that have been made within this field.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death within the US, playing a role in one out of every four deaths. These are the kinds of things that should be shared to raise awareness – cold, hard facts and research will draw attention to the topic instead of the individual posting about it.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Social media and cancer awareness: Crossing a line