Silly Facebook games

Two status updates recently seen on Facebook:

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After I commented on one of these posts that perhaps their page had been hacked by their kids, I received this message:

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I won’t feel bad if anyone calls me a spoil sport, because I’m ruining the game for everyone who reads this, and because I’m not going to play (or should I say, be a victim?). I have two reasons for this.

First, while there is a legit “Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign” page on FB, this particular game apparently is not put out by them. And when you think about it, saying one used one’s “boobs” to get out of a traffic ticket is really not respectful messaging for this particular cause. Even if it were, how is this “girls-only” subterfuge in social media effective in raising awareness? Is there anyone still out there who hasn’t heard of breast cancer by now?

Second, even if one wished to play the game regardless of its creator or purpose, I know how I felt after reading these oversharing statements ostensibly authored by people I know and like, and I would still feel that way if I hadn’t commented and they hadn’t let me in on it. I would not want any of my FB friends to feel that same way about me, especially all those lurkers who read everything and comment on nothing (you know who you are!). I also would not want anyone to take any such statement from me seriously, and surely someone would (but they wouldn’t comment and get the clue so who knows what conclusions they would draw). People poo-poo the idea that anyone takes FB seriously, but they do. I do. So I am not inclined to post a lie and hope everyone just thinks it’s a joke.

Breast cancer is not a joke. Breast cancer awareness games on Facebook are neither helpful nor funny, particularly to people who are living with that terrible disease. I don’t blame anyone for participating but I wish they would stop for a moment and ask themselves, “what good will this actually do?” before they play along.

Here are some facts about breast cancer, so I can at least say that I have done my part to honor the spirit of the game.

Infographic by Lauryn Vermass

Infographic by Lauryn Vermaas

Visit the National Breast Cancer FoundationBreastCancer.org, the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen to learn about ways you can help fight breast cancer, keep yourself healthy, and support those who have it.

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The pink peril

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I don’t know how anyone in this country could possibly escape being aware of this fact. Sure, the hospitals are on board with it, but also the Realtors, the carpet cleaners, and even the local newspaper in my town which printed an entire recent edition on pink paper (including the sports section).

pink ribbons everywhere

Who wouldn’t plunk down a dime or a dollar to support such a worthy cause?

A Canadian documentary released last year called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” talks about how the simple, elegant symbol of the pink ribbon has become such a compelling marketing gimmick that it is virtually ubiquitous all year around. Watch the trailer:

In his review of the movie for Variety magazine, John Anderson says:

Indignant and subversive, “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” resoundingly pops the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement/industry, debunking the “comfortable lies” and corporate double-talk that permeate the massive and thus-far-ineffectual campaign against a disease that claims nearly 60,000 lives each year in North America alone. Veteran helmer Léa Pool, working from Samantha King’s book, won’t be making any friends with her full-frontal attack on the corporate co-option of the breast cancer cause, which could limit Stateside circulation of this Canadian production. But there are plenty of women who’ll want to see it. And they’ll be seeing red, not pink.

The thrust of King’s thesis is that all the pink-themed walk-a-thons, parades, singing children and rose-lit monuments (the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls), actually do more harm than good. By putting a warm and fuzzy spin on the state of breast cancer, the public is distracted from some very ugly numbers: In 1940, a woman had a one-in-22 chance of developing breast cancer; today, the number is one in eight. Only 20%-30% of women with breast cancer have high-risk factors, which means no one really knows what causes the disease. The leading foundations involved in funding cancer research are peopled by representatives of the pharmaceutical, chemical and energy industries, so their ethics are inherently compromised.

Well-intentioned consumers are being sold every sort of pig in a pink poke “for the cause,” as shown in this clip about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s specially commissioned perfume called “Promise Me”:

That’s some pretty steep hypocrisy, no matter how you color it.

Cancer in this country is a very serious matter, nothing we should be taking lightly.

Image source: Newsweek

In my own family, both of my mother’s sisters have survived breast cancer, and I hope that some of the money raised by the pink ribbon campaign went toward developing treatments that helped them do so. I would also like to think that eventually we’ll spend enough money that we actually figure out how not only to cure this awful disease, but also to prevent it in future generations. But considering what a massive cash cow “cancer research” is for so many different companies and organizations, thanks in large part to all the colored ribbon campaigns, I have to wonder whether the stakeholders in those campaigns would really rather that people keep on getting sick and dying because that’s what keeps “the cause” alive and the profits rolling in.

With the blizzard of pink blowing around you this month, I would encourage you to think carefully about how you’re spending your money and what, exactly, it is you want to support. Then buy, or don’t buy, accordingly.