Case Study: Breast Cancer Meme

Cyberactivism is one of the most powerful forms of social media mobilization out there today. You’re probably asking yourself, what is cyberactivism?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I wasn’t familiar with the term either but I unknowingly came across cyberactivism quite regularly on social media. And I’m sure you have, too.

cyberactivism is when individuals utilize the internet to promote specific causes or charities. You see these quite often on Facebook. Every year I get notified by Facebook that it’s my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than asking my friends and family to donate to a cause of my choosing. It’s a great way to give back to those in need and it helps spread more awareness. You ultimately end up feeling good about yourself.

You did your part to help a good cause!

That’s always a good thing!

But are internet memes the same thing?

Every year, various organizations celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness month and to spread awareness they circulate memes on their social networks. One particular example involved woman posting a status update with a single color that was the same as the bra they might be wearing.

The status read: Name, Color, (i.e., Samantha, Black).

The idea behind this particular meme was to arouse interest from people who would be confused by the bizarre cryptic post.

The woman would make no mention as to what the post was related to whatsoever. It was intended to gain mass attention by going viral in the hopes to create awareness through curiosity. It gained a lot of attention online, and future post became more risqué by using sexually charged posts to draw in more curiosity from mainly the male population.

But do memes create the same awareness as would traditional methods of cyberactivism?

Participants who share these memes online aren’t actually taking action towards the cause by contributing donations or charitable time to those in need.

Memes have proven to be very successful in going viral, especially through social media platforms. You can reach thousands, if not millions, of people online in a matter of hours with the right meme. That’s insane!

Are they effective at spreading awareness? It’s hard to know for sure whether or not everyone who shares a viral meme is aware of the context behind it. Some do it just to be included in the online frenzy.

The breast cancer memes are mainly focused on generating active participation from woman. Even more contrary to their cause is that the brand awareness campaign uses the color pink which is misleading, considering that men can and have been diagnosed with breast cancer as well.

Spreading awareness for charitable causes using memes through facebook can be effective. Having access to millions of users simultaneously has a high probability that a meme can go viral. The breast cancer awareness meme was successful mostly because of its subtleness and sexualized appeal. I’m sure lots of people inquired and did research to discover the true meaning behind the colorful posts.

Where I found the meme strategy to lack merit was in its ability to educate the online public about breast cancer and to mobilize those who posted or inquired about the post into action. The meme may have gone viral and reached millions of people but the meme failed to provide a link to breast cancer information websites or to a fundraiser event for the cause.

To have been truly effective, I’d have included a link for educational purposes, and somewhere for people to donate. A meme that can reach millions of people can have the potential to change the lives of many with just a little more options provided on a post.

Adding links can change the game entirely, and make cyberactivism more powerful!

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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