SOCIAL MEDIA: Movember is a month-long charity event to raise awareness on prostate cancer

Movember has almost come to an end. Yes, you read it right. No spelling mistakes. No puns intended. For those of you with that quizzical expression on your face, Movember is a month-long charity event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness on prostate cancer. What started way back in 2003 in Australia has become an increasingly popular fad with Mo-Bros (that’s what men supporting the cause are called) the world over. And with the month and this year’s campaign coming to an end, one cannot help but wonder if there is more to drives like this than meets the eye.

According to clinical psychologist Mohan B.S., “The Movember movement has become this popular simply because of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where men can constantly share pictures of themselves sporting facial hair in the name of cancer awareness. While there is nothing wrong with a quirky movement like this, it shouldn’t stop at just growing a moustache for a month. Men supporting the cause must walk and talk cancer awareness simultaneously!”

Remember sometime ago when your women friends were posting what you thought were distasteful status messages on Facebook such as ‘I like it on the piano’ or ‘I like it in the Jacuzzi’? No, they weren’t referring to anything except where they leave their handbags as soon as they get home! And would you imagine this had anything to do with raising awareness for breast cancer?

Blogger Agratha Dinakaran says: “I haven’t seen too much activity around Movember this year as compared to last year. But the way awareness about breast cancer by sharing the colour of one’s innerwear went viral, was ridiculous. It bears no meaning on breast cancer and its victims, and if boys are not supposed to know what this is about, how exactly are we spreading its awareness? Instead, we should educate ourselves on the subject. Self examine frequently to avoid future problems, speak to other women (and men) about this, and try to help out victims , and maybe even donate to the research. One of my neighbours had breast cancer, and everyone in the apartment building took turns in cooking meals for their family as the entirely family seemed to languish with her. Chemo and cancer are pretty disruptive to one’s life, and to reduce that to exchanging status messages as base as this, is a little insulting to the suffering the victim is going through. ”

Concurring with her is author Milan Vohra who feels: “Campaigns of the type we see on social media do seem pointless at first glance as they barely involve a tiny fraction of people, that too in a superficial way. Just knowing that it is breast/prostate cancer awareness month seems meaningless. There are fewer private moments. Everything is an infinite loop of connected activity. While no amount of words can put you in someone else’s shoes or feel their pain, the truth also is that now more people deal differently with pain. Facebook is full of outpourings of grief and pain – they seem to be not as private the emotions they used to be. These campaigns help in ways such as removing the big silent fear associated with the word cancer, at least to the segment of people who are using these networks.”

Given that social networking sites is where life happens, its importance as a platform for spreading awareness about issues that range from cancer and diabetes to depression or even violence against women, cannot be undermined. In that vein, Milan suggests: “We all need to spark discussion on issues that we are advocating. Where social media can help even more is in role models generating relevant messages, speaking of their own struggles and victories.”

To what extent this wink-wink approach to raising awareness about illnesses as grave as cancer will work is for time to tell. In the meanwhile, we can only hope that spreading awareness doesn’t stop when men shave tomorrow and when women share their next ‘keep-guessing-what-this-is-about’ status on Facebook!