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I Am Going to X for Y Months!

This just may be the first post I’ve ever written knowing exactly how the comments will go before I have even written the first word.  There will be some who say, “oh shit, now I get it.  I saw that and didn’t know what the hell my friend was talking about.”  And there will be some who will say, “that is so fucking stupid that I can’t believe grown women believe this is raising breast cancer awareness.”  And there will be about four people — most of whom comment anonymously — who say that it’s just a fun game and it raises awareness and if I don’t like it click away and if I’m writing a post about this, I must be a loser.

I am a loser.

Today I encountered the latest breast cancer awareness meme on Facebook.  You write, “I am going to X for Y months!” and fill in the X and Y with a country that reflects your birth month and the day of your birth.  For instance, if your birthday was today, it would read, “I am going to Mexico for thirteen months!”

And somehow, from that, we are supposed to learn something about breast cancer.  Even though breast cancer itself isn’t mentioned.  Even though this meme assumes that the reader somehow forgets that breast cancer exists until they are reminded once again with a meme.  As if I’m eating my Cheerios and reading Facebook and suddenly shout out, “oh crap!  I totally forgot all about breast cancer!  Now I remember that breast cancer exists… wheeeew.”  And somehow, that saves a life.

I am all for education — I will forever be grateful for Toddler Planet’s viral post about inflammatory breast cancer.  That bit of social media potentially saved lives.  It made me aware of something I didn’t know existed.  It gave me concrete steps to take if I saw any of the symptoms listed in the post.

What I do have a problem with is slacktavism because it’s lazy.  Because I think it does more harm than good when it makes people roll their eyes rather than listen.  I wrote about this a while back with the fake pregnancy meme that went around and how it had the potential to hurt.  And while moving somewhere may not evoke the same emotional reaction as a pregnancy announcement, I find the whole thing to be equally as annoying — and yes, I will write this type of post every time I see it because it bothers me in the same way that I feel an internal rage building when someone describes themselves as “really nice” when we all know that they’re a total bitch.

Because unless you are the type of person who calls your friends and coyly tries to confuse them, I don’t see why you’d engage in that same behaviour on Facebook.  And if you are the type of person who calls your friends and says, “I’m moving to Mexico.  Just kidding!  Think about breast cancer!” well..  I truly don’t understand why people think that the very same social rules that we use to comport ourselves in the face-to-face world aren’t applicable to the online world.

I know I’m going to be told to lighten up.  That it’s just a game.  It’s just Facebook.  It’s just for fun.  But breast cancer isn’t for fun.  Breast cancer isn’t a joke.  It isn’t something to be taken lightly.  And frankly, I think it sucks that I have to live in a world where people hear that someone is offended and their response is lighten up, just as much as people who tell me to lighten up probably think it sucks to live in a world with someone as un-fun as me.

58 comments

1 Denver Laura { 01.13.12 at 1:19 pm }

It’s funny (in a sad way) that nobody ever posts:

I’m going to [awareness website] and donating $[insert dollar amount here based on your birthdate].

2 Lollipopgoldstein { 01.13.12 at 1:21 pm }

That is brilliant, Denver Laura. That meme I would not mind AT ALL.

3 Tanya { 01.13.12 at 1:32 pm }

As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor I do not like the breast cancer meme posts. Like you said, it leads to confusion more than awareness of a serious disease.

And as someone also struggling with infertility, don’t even get me started on the “pregnancy announcements to raise breast cancer awareness” that circulated last fall. Sheesh!

4 Tara { 01.13.12 at 1:33 pm }

Indeed, Denver Laura.

To paraphrase something I heard somewhere, but if all it took to cure cancer was to walk 60 miles or buy a wristband, cancer would be cured by now.

5 Ana { 01.13.12 at 1:41 pm }

I agree with everything you said and what Laura and Tara said above. And I really really wonder what it is about these memes that makes them so “fun” for some people (the ones who say “lighten up! It’s just for fun.”) Yeah fun. And cancer. Seriously. Can anyone tell me what kind of jollies they get from posting random cryptic lies on Facebook?
If you really want to do some good, donate your time or money to research or to directly help someone who is suffering. If you want to “raise awareness” you can facebook/tweet/blog about what you did. Or remind me to do my breast exams/ mammograms. Or share a link to a legitimate research/medical article. Posting these memes usually only make me aware that I need to de-friend you.

6 sue { 01.13.12 at 1:47 pm }

Breast cancer is not fun. I wonder, though, why it is the only cancer about which the public raises awareness. There are so many diseases. So many cancers — gynecologic cancers — that no one knows or hears about.

My mother died from ovarian cancer almost 11 years ago. This is from the CDC:

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective.†

Thing is, it is very rare to find the disease in the early stages because few women OR doctors are aware of the symptoms. Sounds like something people need awareness of . More women get breast cancer, but more women die from ovarian cancer each year: 15K women die from it each year.

It’s not a contest. Not a “Cancer Olympics.” I”m just trying to say that people seem to be putting energy to “raise awareness” in innocuous ways. Ways that seem to take the gravity from the situation, and seem to neglect the need for all kinds of cancer research.

Please forgive my rant. A few minutes ago, my amazingly sweet and loving two-year old niece (born after 7 years of IF) just asked me where *my* mommy was. It stings a bit.

7 magpie { 01.13.12 at 1:51 pm }

It’s not just a game. It’s dumb, and it doesn’t do any good.

8 Hapa Hopes { 01.13.12 at 1:53 pm }

There are some fantastic ideas here. I think that I will make a post suggesting Denver Laura’s method and see what happens. I agree – they sound like 5th graders made them up and then grown women end up using them in a way that seems to marginalize breast cancer awareness.

9 HereWeGoAJen { 01.13.12 at 2:05 pm }

I find myself disliking Facebook more and more every single day.

10 Amy { 01.13.12 at 2:07 pm }

You are NOT lame. The people who go along with those mindless memes are the lame ones…they just play along, not even considering how doing so does nothing to raise awareness for whatever cause or disease it claims to be for. The “I’m xx far along and craving xx” one killed me…SO thoughtless to all of the millions of women who have lost babies, and another one that completely has NOTHING to do with breast cancer, as it claimed.

The only way to educate the public is to continue to raise awareness through blogging and the like. That makes us POWERFUL, not lame! (That, and maybe pointing out how stupid those things are on our Facebook pages. I only had 1 “friend” play the “I’m xx far along…” one, thank God.)

11 Brandy { 01.13.12 at 2:14 pm }

I figured this had something to do with breast cancer awareness, but wasn’t sure. This most recent one doesn’t seem to be as popular as the ones in the past. I think I’ve had maybe 10 people post this one and ALL of them have gotten comments that range from confusion to outrage. It’s ridiculous. I’m going to link this post on my facebook if that’s ok!

12 Jessica { 01.13.12 at 2:31 pm }

I always found those posts stupid and annoying. You pretty much summed up my feeling exactly. So glad I have gotten rid of my Facebook and no longer have to look at stuff that sends my eyes into a constant rolling motion.

13 Kate { 01.13.12 at 2:32 pm }

The first person on my FB feed who posted it got responses ranging from incredulity to congratulations on her impending trip. I didn’t reply, but I certainly thought it was a genuine status update, as the person in question had in the past expressed the desire to move somewhere random!

It was only when I saw someone else post a similar update that I realized it must be another idiotic meme. And since breast cancer “awareness” is the source of about 85% of the memes like this I see…

I just don’t get it. Not effective. Not worthwhile. Annoying. How does this help in any way?

14 Casey { 01.13.12 at 3:00 pm }

Amen. Shared it, and hoping others will share it too.

15 Seriously?! { 01.13.12 at 3:21 pm }

Why can’t people just be direct and to the point any more??? Say it like it is. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t hide it, don’t mask it.

Sooooo…get this post!!!

16 Jill { 01.13.12 at 3:29 pm }

Awesome, Denver Laura! I just posted as my status:

“Instead of posting “I am going to [X] for [Y] months”, “I am [X] months and craving [Y]” or “I like it on the [X]“, etc. as some sort of confusing and ill-conceived way to raise awareness for breast cancer… Why not post I am going to [X Cancer Assoc Website] and donating [Y dollars]? That will actually do some good!”

and then as the first comment I posted:

“I’ll start: I just went to American Cancer Society (cancer.org) and donated $15 in honor of my grandmother! Won’t you join me and pass it on?!”

Let’s hope this is something that catches on.

And Mel, I am so with you on this. These memes make my blood boil!!

17 Jonelle { 01.13.12 at 3:41 pm }

I was invited to participate in this new meme a few days ago and I flat out refused to “spread the awareness”. As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor, it insults my intelligence to participate in these useless umbiguous kind of memes.

I love Denver Laura’s suggestion.

18 a { 01.13.12 at 3:45 pm }

Well, that explains my niece’s post yesterday… She’s only 13. I’ll have to educate her.

19 Eggs In A Row { 01.13.12 at 3:50 pm }

This is one of the reasons I’m on a self-imposed Facebook break. Until February 1st.

Just detoxing from the insanity. ALso, I now have more time for blogs. ;)

20 KH99 { 01.13.12 at 3:54 pm }

AGAIN????? Ugh, what ignorance!

21 Eve { 01.13.12 at 4:25 pm }

Yes, no FB for me…not really because of JUST those type of things, but because I’m protesting the bullshit assumption that ‘liking’ someone’s picture or comment is the equivalent of actually calling someone or mailing them a REAL card or letter. I recognize there are true merits and conveniences of FB, but it all smacks of the ‘cool kids’ club to me. Anyway, I detest fake niceisms, political correctness to a fault, and sentiments that seem more about following everyone else than truly caring.

22 Her Royal Fabulousness { 01.13.12 at 4:34 pm }

I totally agree with you. A friend did that stupid meme and I felt totally manipulated and annoyed with her. I basically said, “WTF are you doing?” and hid her from my feed.

My grandmother had a double mastectomy and I take this shit seriously. People need to stop this ridiculous trend.

23 Louisa { 01.13.12 at 4:44 pm }

I just don’t get it. How does this game raise awareness about anything? I also don’t have a FB page. I know it’d suck up way too much time.

24 Illanare { 01.13.12 at 4:55 pm }

Denver Laura’s idea is superb.

25 Leah { 01.13.12 at 5:55 pm }

Here here!! Or is it Hear hear! Whatever … the thing is, if people want to play a silly status game on fb and annoy your friends, knock yourselves out, as long as it isn’t potentially hurtful like the fake pregnancy one – there is no need to try and steal some credibility by saying it is some kind of activism.

26 Cristy { 01.13.12 at 6:42 pm }

I hate these memes. Not only because of the fact they make absolutely no sense, but also because the do ZERO regarding actually educating people about breast cancer, let alone cancer. Newsflash people: the American Cancer Society has a great website regarding cancer education (www.cancer.org). So do most of the cancer centers like St. Jude’s, Dana-Farber, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, etc. For Breast Cancer, Susan G Komen can’t be beat. My whole point: if you want to make a difference, spend some time volunteering for THESE organizations. Don’t take time away from the lab bench, where many of my colleagues are working hard to find ways to find answers in order to better battle this disease.

27 Tigger { 01.13.12 at 6:58 pm }

I’ve seen this going around for a bit, and then it went away, and yesterday a friend posted it and sent it out. I replied, telling her I refuse to participate in these games and to please remove me from this particular conversation and not ask again. She messaged me back, saying she’d just wanted to explain what the status was, we talked, she realized how utterly stupid and pointless it was. She THEN messaged the friends she’d asked to participate, told them she was sorry and upon discussion with a “wise friend”, realized that this was stupid. And then? She posted a link to her wall with a similar message about it being stupid, and to please go HERE (to the Komen foundation) and donate, and don’t forget to get checked!

So apparently we CAN make a difference one person at a time if we just speak up – nicely, but firmly. I didn’t throw it in her face and tell her how stupid it was, we just talked. It was so nice!

28 Natalie { 01.13.12 at 7:19 pm }

What I don’t understand is why it is supposed to be for Breast Cancer Awareness? It would just be a silly thing that people post about except for the fact that they want to tie it to breast cancer. My sister is only 35 years old with two small children and stage 4 breast cancer. Posting your bra size or where you’re moving too so that you can confuse your friends is not helping her. And by saying that it is for breast cancer awareness, that just makes us think less seriously about breast cancer in my opinion. It makes it into a joke. And it makes me mad, so thank you for your well written post.

29 Shelli { 01.13.12 at 7:56 pm }

The minute I saw the first post in my FB stream regarding this latest foray into idiocy, I immediately blocked all posts from “friend” in question.

I really am becoming so intolerant of this crap. There are so many other intelligent ways to bring a “call to attention” for a cause.

30 Mali { 01.13.12 at 9:19 pm }

Agree 100%. But is Facebook to blame? Or is it us, choosing to “friend” people who do this, people we wouldn’t normally be in touch with, people we don’t share values or beliefs with, but people we have “friended” because we want to feel popular?

31 Mrs. Gamgee { 01.13.12 at 9:57 pm }

Ugh! I cannot believe that people are still doing these things! Activism should have some measurable result or at the very least offer some form of education. This does neither.

(And don’t get me started on the whole ‘Pink’ industry! Double ugh!)

32 katie { 01.13.12 at 10:54 pm }

Only one of my FB friends is daft enough to have reposted this, which means I didn’t get that it was a meme, and therefore thought she was being genuine. Which HUGELY misses the point, even for this misses-the-point-entirely meme.

33 Trish { 01.14.12 at 12:59 am }

Know what made me think of breast cancer this week? My aunt was diagnosed.
The timing of this particular stupid meme was particularly bitter.

I really like the suggested alternative and tomorrow I’m going to do just that.

34 Jen { 01.14.12 at 5:17 am }

Denver Laura, you are a genius! I have made a donation and my FB status now reads:

“I am not going anywhere for 24 months to raise awareness about breast cancer. Instead I have donated £24 to MacMillan Cancer Support. There are lots of cancer charity websites accepting donations. Will you join me?”

Thank you Mel for getting something good out of this ridiculousness.

35 Mina { 01.14.12 at 5:58 am }

I wonder who starts these stupid memes? Are they all created by the same person? Or does stupidity inspire some more stupidity!
But I guess it is like asking who is the first car that starts a traffic jam. I often see traffic jams on the German highways, and I realise I miss the beginning every time, because by the time I see the cars bumper to bumper, it is too late to go back and see the first car.
But I wouldn’t mind to be the ghost driver on FB and go back and see who started any of the moronic memes.

My standard reply to any meme is “My aunt died aged 36 and left a 5year old son to be raised by his father. My dad had two cancerous tumours operated, my FIL had to learn again to speak because of esophagial cancer. If that isn’t making you aware of what cancer can do, than nothing will. Memes raise brows, not awareness.”

I was asked why do I take it so seriously. I defriended them without answering. I was useless.

36 JustHeather { 01.14.12 at 7:46 am }

This one was actually in our local newspaper…
I saw several people post them and just shook my head and then asked my hubby, what was the reason for this thing again? It sure didn’t remind me of cancer.

37 unaffected { 01.14.12 at 9:13 am }

Denver Laura – Bravo to a wonderful idea.

Mali – I agree with you, although sometimes I accepted friend requests because I felt bad not accepting them. Nothing like social media to breed feelings of guilt.

Thankfully, I deactivated my FB account last week, so I was spared this idiocy. In all honesty, the people participating in this foolish “game” aren’t the brightest of the bunch. At least in my FB world.

38 Mark { 01.14.12 at 10:55 am }

This campaign is wrong on so many levels. Here is how it impacted me:

My ex-wife (who happens to have primary custody and care of our five year old son) posted this meme. Given her job, it moving wouldn’t be unlikely, but it is possible.

I spent five minutes staring at the screen feeling a combination of despair, shock and panic surge over me. It felt like my world had been yanked out from underneath my feet. A couple of phone calls later I managed to track down my ex and she explained that it “wasn’t real” and was for breast cancer awareness.

Reflect for a moment how you would feel if your ex-spouse announced on Facebook that your young child was going to be removed from you for a period of months and taken to a foreign country. Then realizing that short of a lengthy and costly legal battle there would be nothing you could do about it. Would you feel helpless? Would you feel panic? Perhaps you would feel dread. I hope that you are starting to get the picture.

I realize that part of any blame must be placed with the person who posts. However, appealing to the poster to “Don’t tell any MEN what the status means!” and “keep them guessing” is irresponsible and counterintuitive to an ‘awareness campaign’. These messages encourage the person posting to keep the intent secret under the guise of creating a more successful campaign. What was the creator of this campaign thinking? Is it the policy of Breast Cancer Awareness organizations to operate from a position of exclusivity?

In my case, this policy proved to be agonizing, stress invoking and downright spiteful. The campaign certainly raised my awareness of how callous and thoughtless some people can be – on individual and organizational levels. If the campaign’s goal was to lose my support, it succeeded.

39 Daryl { 01.14.12 at 11:05 am }

You all have much better ideas to raise awareness than whoever came up with yet another stupid meme. The only way to battle ignorance is with education. Even if it is one person at a time. Thank you all for doing your part!

40 Jayme { 01.14.12 at 2:45 pm }

Yep, it’s stupid. We need to come up w/something for IF awareness!

41 jamie { 01.14.12 at 6:14 pm }

I’m going to get slammed for this I’m sure, but if we put near as much money towards Resolve could you imagine the number of treatments that could be PAID for so people could actually afford to create families who don’t have insurance that covers them??? I’m all for Breast Cancer funding and support and I feel it needs to be brought to the forefront because no one is immune to it, but there are sooo many causes we can push as well.

42 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.14.12 at 6:26 pm }

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. Based on the title, I thought you were joining me in solidarity for my self-declared Algebra Posting Week.

And I really like Denver Laura’s idea. Almost as much as I like Denver Laura!

43 loribeth { 01.15.12 at 1:31 pm }

I’m glad I read this first. I’ve had two such messages pop up on my news feed since then. :p

44 Battynurse { 01.16.12 at 12:49 am }

Well said Mel. I agree and have refused to play along.

45 missohkay { 01.16.12 at 8:44 am }

The sad thing is that these memes are so stupid and unrelated to breast cancer that they’ve become recognizable. I saw my aunt post that she was moving to the Dominican Republic for 23 months and rolled my eyes and just thanked the heavens it wasn’t a fake pregnancy this time. (They’re not recognizeable to everyone obvs because another aunt was like “really? it is a mission trip? can i come visit you?”)

46 EC { 01.16.12 at 12:28 pm }

I totally agree. I think it’s stupid, and I don’t see how it’s at all related to breast cancer. Plus, it’s confusing – I actually thought my mother in law was moving to another country!

47 Geochick { 01.16.12 at 6:19 pm }

What a stupid meme. This crap drives me nuts.

48 Chickenpig { 01.16.12 at 8:36 pm }

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Everybody knows about breast cancer. Football teams wear pink shoes for g-damn sake during the month of October. It isn’t a disease that has been in the shadows since Betty Ford.

There are so many OTHER cancers that need money and awareness. There are so many diseases that kill more women than breast cancer. Like heart disease. It’s time to let the breast cancer awareness memes gooooo.

49 Shafqat { 01.17.12 at 9:05 am }

impulsively, I forwarded the message to the females in my facebook too. I also posted the status. The moment I ve seen the status on my timeline and subsequently the comments after that, I felt how utterly STUPID thing I ve done!!!
Really, that made no sense. So I had to delete my status, resend messages to the friends I ve sent the awareness campaign to saying them how stupid I ve been to give in to such thing, and posted ANOTHER status on my timeline apologising to ppl whom I confused with my status and message.

50 Brandi K { 01.17.12 at 9:15 am }

I totally agree with you. They annoy me and they do no good for whatever cause. I just received a message to “play along” yesterday and just removed myself from the conversation…but perhaps I should have said something first. Oh well.

51 Becca M { 01.17.12 at 1:15 pm }

I understand what people are saying about it being dumb and not really raising awareness. I don’t usually participate in these things (send this to 10 friends or you’ll die, etc.), but I don’t think it’s as bad as some are making it out to be. Feeling like you are a part of something can do a lot for awareness. Learning that their peers care about breast health may cause some girls to take notice. I agree that cancer is a serious issue; there is no doubt about it. However, sometimes the serious stuff doesn’t catch people’s attention the way it should. Maybe there should be a mixture of information circulating, not just “fun,” but I don’t think what’s going on is all bad.

52 Becca M { 01.17.12 at 1:30 pm }

Just because I posted on Facebook and sent to friends before I read this, I am adding a comment to my Facebook post: “Breast Cancer Awareness. I hope I’m not ruining this for anyone. Guys can get breast cancer too.” Maybe it is dumb, but I agree that secrecy is not be the best.

53 Ellie { 01.19.12 at 12:03 pm }

As a person who’s mother is a breast cancer survivor I have taken offense to various forms of stupid awareness. Breast cancer sucks and there is nothing I hate more than the light general joking that people use to make themselves feel better about it…and then I look at my mom. My mom is here and happy. She always tells me that it doesn’t matter how stupid the awareness campaign is, because it’s not about the campaign, it’s about the message. (This came up during the pregnancy cancer meme. I was MAD!) I love my mother and if I can take one thing from her life, it’s her love and ability to look past the stupidity. :)

54 Liz { 01.22.12 at 9:53 pm }

Hey all, I participated in this act to spread the word about breast cancer awareness, and it resulted in my girlfriends remembering to get themselves examined. The trick posting about going away is more of an attention grabber to get people to comment…only so that we can reflect on what the real topic of conversation is here. It’s a conversation starter. I didn’t get it at first, but then I caught on. I really do not think it is meant to be offensive in any way, and I’m sorry if anyone has taken it that way. It is about spreading awareness so that we can continue to have more people to participate in funds to find a cure and also encourage women to get themselves examined and do self-examinations so that they may potentially find something before it escalates. I agree it is all about the message! It’s a silly campaign, but at least it’s spreading the word.

55 Liz { 01.22.12 at 10:06 pm }

I just responded with the following link in my profile, http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/BreastSelfAwareness.html. I think is an important link for all women to see.

56 stevef { 05.16.13 at 12:31 am }

55 posts. 54 complaints. Which means 55 people talking about breast cancer, an unknown number of people reading this post and then talking about the post and breast cancer to their friends. All who probably would not have even thought about breast cancer had it not been for this ‘silly and pointless’ meme – I see that as a good result personally.

57 AdamS { 08.08.13 at 3:06 pm }

Thank you! My brother posted “I’m going to live in New York for 20 months” on his facebook page. I’m not on facebook. The first I heard was when one of my kids said “hey, uncle Nigel’s going to live in New York!” I nearly shit myself. This is so fucking stupid.

58 Becki { 08.13.13 at 12:05 am }

These memes irritate the hell out of me, too. To the extent that they raise awareness at all, I suspect they don’t do it for long or to any great effect. If people want to play a game, fine, play a game. No shame in that. But don’t pretend it does anything useful. If you want to do something useful with equally minimal effort, post as your status one day a month, “When was your last mammogram?”

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