In the last few days my Facebook news feed has been filling up with photos of friends taking #nomakeupselfie to #beatcancer. The accidental campaign that started a week ago has gone viral, and as a result $3 million has been raised for a Cancer Research UK charity.
So why has this campaign gone viral? I dare say it wasn’t the fact that people were desperate to donate to something or that they were passionate about cancer research. It’s a wonderful outcome, which is being applauded by the CRUK and anyone with a vested interest in cancer research.
But I can’t make the link between posting a selfie sans make up to cancer. And does it not perhaps trivialises the very painful and all too real experience of the hideous illness? If you’re suffering from cancer, a #nomakeupselfie it isn’t a glamorous, soft light experience. Although the campaign has done no harm, and it’s great to see people jumping on board to support a good cause, perhaps the success is not driven by the cause, but rather because it taps into a social media recipe for success. Self-glorification, validation and altruism.
“To support cancer research, here is a selfie of my with #nomakeup”.
Are we not posting this photo in the hopes that friends will comment with phrases like; “Natural beauty!” or “You don’t need make-up babe!” We are wanting the Likes to hit a person high, and for personal validation to flood in. Is it narcissism blanketed by social good?
This morning I had coffee with a mentor and fellow activist. We discussed the apathy that is so prevalent in our society – indigenous children are still being stolen from their mothers, Australia is perpetrating human rights abuses on asylum seekers, atrocities unimaginable are taking place in the Congo – and yet for the most part, action from the people is minor and in some cases non-existent.
My mentor grew up during a time when everyone was fighting for something; from Free Mandela campaigns to anti-war marches, people were passionate and used their voice and feet to make a stand for something.
Today a ‘Like’ or a ‘Retweet’ is a sign of solidarity and appeases our moral conscience. An army of Armchair Activists. Comfortably aware and happy to parade our social concern on the internet, so long as it doesn’t require too much of us.
Something happened a couple of years ago that I believe changed the way we advocate. The Kony 2012 Doco went viral, igniting a fire. All over the world people heard about atrocities that were happening during our life time to young children. Perhaps the worst atrocities in our modern day history. The campaign primarily targeted students who believed that their actions, voice and solidarity could be crucial in ending this war. They shared the link and ordered ‘action packs’. They educated themselves and talked about it with their friends. It made international news and the documentary made its way from Youtube to prime-time commercial TV. But just as quickly, the criticisms flew in. Within a week we had learnt about a situation so horrific we had to respond, and just as quickly told it was all a sham; a complex situation many could not understand, let alone activate a change.
And poof. Just like that, those who had believed that they could make difference and that their voice was important, were now being told that their actions were trivial in light of Africa’s longest running war.
It is easier not to care and even easier not to take action. Caring is complicated. Action is uncomfortable. Much easier to take a photo of myself and hashtag a reason.
You make some great points about 'passive activism'. I recently read how many of the Facebook users are putting up their no makeup selfie and not including any info on the cause it was meant to support and how many people believe that the trend is a 'love yourself as you are' campaign. I have numerous friends who had done the "no makeup selfie" but only perhaps 2 of them have actively also included the receipt number for their charitable donation.