This morning, when I opened up Facebook, I found a message that inspired this post. At best, it’s a cautionary tale. I’ll post the message here. It came from a professional contact whom I’ve never met, several other colleagues were in the visible distribution list, and there was no Subject line. For many reasons, it did not pass my personal “smell test.” See if you agree.
“We are playing a game. Someone purposed that we Girl’s do something special on face book to help gain awareness for Breast Cancer. It’s so easy that I’d like you to join us to help spread it! Last year it was about writting the color of the bra you were wearing in your fb status….and it left the men wondering for days why the girls (apparently random) colors as their status. This year it has to do with our love relationship at present time. You will indicate where you are currently by posting a “code” word from list below in your status. For example if you are single you would post “Tequilla”
Rum: I’m a touch and go woman
Champagne: I’m engaged woman
Red Bull: I’m a woman in a relationship
Beer: I’m married
Vodka: I’m the other woman
Sprite: I’m a woman who can’t find the right man
Whiskey: I’m a single woman but my friends won’t stop partying
Liquor: I’m a woman who wishes she was single
Gin: I’m a woman who wants to get married
All you need to do now is post the word from the list that best represents your situation as your fb status(Do not reply to this email just post the word in your status) then copy & paste this message and send it to all your girlfriends as a message. The Bra game reached the news let’s try to get this one on the news too! Help us show everyone how powerful women really are!!”
I’m going to take a stand and say that in my opinion, this is appalling. It left me sputtering, metaphorical temperature rising, and almost incapable of writing anything other than, “Are you F@%&ing kidding me?”
It’s so bad that it makes me hope that the message is spam, and that we have been hacked. If it is posted by meme-maker wannabes, then “Good job!” for diminishing the legitimate efforts of those who use social media in creative and effective ways to get their message across. “Good job!” on missing the entire feminist movement. And “Good job!” for appealing to people’s best intentions to be social and supportive of their “friends,” often clicking to share automatically and without engaging the thought process. And if it turns out to be officially sanctioned or celebrated by those who work tirelessly to promote awareness of breast cancer, then — oooh. Bad move. Should have slept on this to take another look. Should have asked for a few other sets of eyes to have a look. Should have fired whoever proposed it, and found someone to manage your social media who knows what they are doing.
I’m a big sharer on Facebook, and I love to have a good time. However, this appeal to change status updates to get attention — for what, again? is fatally flawed from the outset. Frankly, I hope it will stumble to an early and quiet death. So let’s review. A missing subject line is a characteristic of spam. Secondly, the rampant misspellings, incorrect use of punctuation, and awkward sentence structure give it a juvenile tone. For example: “Someone purposed that we Girl’s do something special on face book to help gain awareness for Breast Cancer. It’s so easy that I’d like you to join us to help spread it!” Spread what, exactly? Breast cancer? Your message? No thank you, either way.
Then, the choice of status update “codes” as — alcoholic beverages? Really? To make people aware that there is a correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and breast cancer? Hmmm. . . Someone is clearly unaware that employers now routinely check PUBLIC social media status postings when considering people for employment and promotion. Perhaps you are unaware that nothing posted online EVER goes away. Ever. Posting a status like this is akin to posting drunken pictures from your Spring Break — a serious career-limiting move. I wonder who will post this to their status, and then be denied a job or passed over for promotion — it happens more and more frequently. And you’re going to show how powerful woman are? Huh.
My rant fully underway, I thought: what about allowing women an opportunity to be recognized for their bona fide achievements, or for their joyful self-expression (as the bra color updates were last year)? Instead, here we are, giving women one more opportunity to define themselves by their relationship with someone else — most likely a man. (There’s a little “wiggle room” for lesbians to participate here, I guess. I think my lesbian friends are too savvy to fall for this.) We’ve come a long way, baby.
So no, thank you, I won’t be posting this on my Facebook status, and I don’t think you should, either. To be generous, one could see it as a naive and blundering effort by someone whose heart is in the right place, but who is completely unskilled and uninformed about the effective ways to use social media. The unintended consequences of putting this out there are potentially terrible. Rather than promoting the worthy cause of breast cancer awareness, or the power of women, on the contrary, this invitation has the effect of exploiting the naive users of Facebook. It will reveal those people, primarily women, who are hungry for approval and connection, who will jump on any bandwagon by mindlessly clicking the share button. You know those emails you get from the lawyer of the wife of the recently deceased African billionaire who wants to give you a few hundred thousand dollars for your time and trouble? Same thing, only different. This “Game” exploits and diminishes those it purports to help.
Conclusion of sermon: Be an informed and aware user of this medium. It is not new anymore. Information about how to use it, and use it well, is widely available. Develop your own “smell test.” Be sensible about what you choose to share, and skeptical about what you are asked to share. And remember that the juice of existence still happens IRL — In Real Life. If you want to promote breast cancer awareness, don’t just click a stupid share button. Participate in the Komen walk, part with some cash. And, if you want to showcase the power of women, hire one, and give her equal pay and equal protection under the law.
[What do you think? Did you receive the invitation? Will you participate? Have you participated in previous status-update campaigns?]