Let me preface this by saying two things: first, that I have had a family death from breast cancer, and that colors my feelings about everything that surrounds it. I have done five breast cancer walks, trained teams of walkers, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Susan G. Komen foundation through the Breast Cancer Three Day Walks. Second, I will say that I am a big fan of social media, and the connections that can be made through the use of such sites as Facebook and Twitter. I love that information and knowledge can be shared, and that individuals can become transparent in a way that was impossible before. I love the ability to listen to varied viewpoints and connect with people about topics that interest me. However, besides the continual “I don’t care what you ate for lunch” complaint, I am often frustrated by the trivialization of important topics of conversation. It seems that Facebook and Twitter have, for some, allowed the freedom of typing anything, anytime, to become their version of the forwarded email of the 90’s.
I received this in my Inbox yesterday, posted on my Facebook wall by a “friend” of mine. I use friend in quotes, because in the world of Facebook, a friend is often only someone in one’s sphere of influence, rather than the traditional Webster definition.
“Write the color of your bra as your status, just the color, nothing else!! Copy this and pass it on to all females …… NO MEN!! This will be fun to see how it spreads, and we are leaving the men wondering why all females just have a color as their status!! Let’s have fun!! Support breast cancer xx!”
At first I just hit the delete button, as I was busy with handling business emails, but as I went through my day, it began to niggle at me, and I pulled up the message again, to figure out why I was so bothered by this message.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Let’s start with the obvious; while I get it that men don’t wear bras, men do in fact get breast cancer. Here are the most recent stats from the American Cancer Society:
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009 about 1,910 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among men in the United States. In 2009, about 440 men died from breast cancer in the United States. The prognosis and survival rates for men and women are about equal, based on their particular stage of breast cancer.
Now to the, perhaps, less obvious: Every man is affected by breast cancer, when it touches the lives of his wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, co-worker, or friend.
For there to be real change in the funding of, and the finding a cure for, breast cancer, everyone has to come to the table, both men and women. Nothing about breast cancer is fun or funny, not for its victims or the families that surround them. Typing my bra color will not, in any way, take even one step forward in the fight against breast cancer. And most important, we don’t “support breast cancer xx!”, we must support a cure for breast cancer.
On Santa Monica Boulevard, here in Los Angeles, there is a billboard that has run 24/7, for the past 23 years, sponsored by William and Peggy Bloomfield, and by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. It is simple, black, with a number tally. Each year the tally starts at 0, and continues running through December 31, when it resets. The billboard simply says “Deaths from cigarette smoking this year”. That one billboard has affected my daughter more than anything else I could have said to her about smoking. That is the power of 140 characters or less.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I believe that Facebook and Twitter have tremendous power, to reach both a broad, and often youthful, audience. Words have power and meaning. I’d like to see that power used to make a real difference.
What do you think?