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Monday, July 8, 2013

Be an activist, not a slacktivist!

I used to work as a fundraiser for the March of Dimes. It was hard work, it was very hard to convince people to part with their money, even for research that could save the lives of babies. Getting people to walk in an event was easy; everyone was happy to walk for babies. Let me make this clear: your act of walking saved no babies. The walk is a celebration of thanks for everyone who raised money to support the mission. So, please, if you haven't donated or raised money, stay home. Don't show up to a walk (or any other similar event) and think you're supporting a cause! And furthermore - DONATE MONEY. Don't just change your Facebook profile photo or update your status.

I am sick and tired of the Facebook status updates that are “in support” of something. The next person who updates their status in support of something, I will punch in the face (okay, maybe not really).

Why such vitriol, such hatred for raising awareness for something as horrible as cancer or child abuse you ask with your doe-eyes open wide in disbelief.  Because the people who mindlessly post these updates are helping absolutely no one.  In fact, they may be doing more harm than good.

If you’re ready to throw rotten tomatoes at me for raining on your good feeling rainbows, honestly answer these questions.

1)      How does your status update help anyone? Why would that cartoon character stop anyone from beating a child?

Say for example you are posting it to show your support for war veterans, or to demonstrate that you’re always there for a friend in need. How have you helped? Did you donate money? Did you actually lend a helping hand to a friend in need? No. Up to this point all you’ve done is update your status, the same activity you do 5 times a day. Let me reiterate that – you have provided zero actual help. If my house is on fire, a real friend would be at my house pulling out my valuables alongside me, not putting something banal on Facebook like: “If you’re reading this you can rest assured I’ll always be there for you when things catch on fire. Please copy this if you agree.” Actions speak louder than words.

2)      Regarding the particularly infuriating breast cancer campaign – how does the top secret nature of the status updates raise awareness?  And why does keeping it a secret from all men seem helpful?

Instead of making men aware of the devastating effects this disease has on the women in their lives and in rare occasions on men themselves, we’ll just make sexual innuendo and get their attention for NO DAMN REASON. There’s not even a link to click through to the American Cancer Society’s website to make a donation. If you like sexual innuendo, a better use of your status update would be: “Like looking at boobies? Breast cancer makes ‘em ugly. Click here to donate to keep boobies pretty.” <— Hey look, all the fun of an inappropriate joke along with something helpful.

3)      Gut check – how many times have you copy and pasted some helpful “in support of” status update and not done anything else?

You feel like you have done your part, you’ve contributed to the cause and are ready to move on. The reality is, you haven’t donated money, you haven’t encouraged your friends to donate money, and you haven’t even raised awareness about how horrible the something you’re supporting is. This really happens and it’s why it frustrates me most of all. It’s called slackitivism – something that feels good but has no real effect at all.

I know your fingers are twitching to leave me hateful comments about how it’s all a fun way to show your support for something very serious. I get it — it’s fun and we all want to feel like we’re a part of something. You’re generating lots of great PR with these status updates, right?

Think of it in off-line terms. If you were hanging around with some friends and randomly said “hey, you know what guys and gals? I am patently against child abuse” would you feel like you’ve helped prevent child abuse? It amounts to the same thing.

You’re just copying and pasting and in the real world helping someone is never that easy.

If you are among the people who do donate and or volunteer, or did help your friend pull her belongings out of a burning house, please use the extra real estate in your status update to share how your friends can be as helpful as you. If not, you’re just missing the point of “raising awareness.”

Real world example: This blog post highlights how incredibly hurtful the latest version of the breast cancer game can be. Again, if you want to help a cause DO SOMETHING. Your games are not helping anyone, and as you can clearly see this incarnation is particularly insensitive to women who are unable to conceive by pretending to be pregnant.

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