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Fruit Facebook Status Meme

We’re about two months away from breast cancer awareness month, which means that we’re starting to see those cryptic Facebook messages that ask women to place the name of a fruit as their status (BLUEBERRY=single; PINEAPPLE= it’s complicated; RASPBERRY= I can’t/don’t want to commit; APPLE=engaged; CHERRY=in a relationship; BANANA=married; AVOCADO=I’m the better half; STRAWBERRY=can’t find Mr. Right; LEMON=want to be single; RAISIN=want to get married to my partner) or write I am going to X for Y months or write their bra colour or…

And you’re confused right, which is sort of the point of this post: if you are confused, this isn’t raising awareness.

Awareness is by definition a straightforward disseminating of information in order to make one knowledgeable.  One cannot be knowledgeable if no knowledge is being imparted.  For instance, if I wanted to ensure that people do a self-breast exam, I would write a post like the one Dameazon wrote a few weeks ago after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  If I wanted to be coy and make people cranky, I would write a random piece of fruit as my Facebook status and get people to Google around and find a post like this which explains to them that their Facebook friend is participating in an offensive Facebook meme.  And yes, it is offensive because we’re talking about cancer and cancer isn’t something that benefits from games or coy memes.

And it’s offensive because the note itself excludes men (the point, actually, is to exclude men and drive them wild with curiosity!  “Two years ago we had to write the color of our underwear on our wall. Men wondered for days at what was going on with random colors on girls’ walls.”).  You know, men, who also develop breast cancer.  And because it’s treated as a publicity stunt. (“Last time, the underwear game was mentioned on TV, let’s see if we get there with this one!”).  Oh, and because the message always asks you to “send to all your girlie friends,” and by default, anything that calls my adult friends “girlies” is offensive.

By which I mean that I don’t take offense at the people who play, not really thinking about what they’re doing when they cryptically update their status; we all post things that we reflect upon later and realize were pointless.  I take offense at the people who create this meme year after year.

But please, don’t post.  Don’t write a fruit in your status bar or say where your purse is or the colour of your bra or that you’re moving somewhere or that you’re pregnant.  If you truly want to raise awareness for breast cancer this year,

  • Post a link to Dameazon’s post and encourage women to do self-breast exams.
  • Post a link to Toddler Planet’s post about the lesser known inflammatory breast cancer (Toddler Planet died earlier this year from IBC).
  • Post a link to WebMD’s page on breast cancer.
  • Post a link to the Mayo Clinic’s page on breast cancer.
  • Or feel free to share this post if you want a link to all four sites at once.  And let me know in the comment section if there are other great breast cancer awareness posts out there that should be on this list that are written by people who have breast cancer and are using their blogs to educate.

Those posts have the potential to spread awareness.  Use your Facebook status wisely.


1 Justine { 08.22.12 at 9:08 pm }


I wonder how many of the people who post these stupid statuses have actually HAD breast cancer, or have known someone who has/had it … because this FB meme thing seems so naive.

2 a { 08.22.12 at 9:47 pm }

Or this post – this would be a good link too…for multiple reasons.

3 vablondie { 08.22.12 at 9:57 pm }

Thank you! I also think those memes are really stupid. And I agree they do not do much for breast cancer awareness!

4 tigger62077 { 08.22.12 at 10:36 pm }

Oh lord. Thank you for the heads up. I haven’t seen it yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to show up. I’m going to post this NOW in the (false) hopes of staving off the influx of stupid meme.

5 Rebecca { 08.22.12 at 11:15 pm }

My Godmother just finished 8 weeks of intensive radiation for breast cancer. Luckily, hers was found very early, removed cleanly, no lymph node involvement, and her prognosis is excellent.
You can bet your collective asses I WON’T be partaking in these stupid FB memes. I WILL however, be posting relevant and timely information regarding self-exams, the importance of yearly mammograms, and anything else I can find to increase the educating of the public about breast cancer!!!

6 luna { 08.22.12 at 11:46 pm }

oh how I hate this ridiculous meme.

this is one of my favorite breast cancer organizations. they aim not only for awareness but for action and accountability:

7 Mali { 08.22.12 at 11:50 pm }

I love love LOVE this post. I agree 100%.

Oh, and this … “…by default, anything that calls my adult friends “girlies” is offensive.” Yes.

8 Bea { 08.23.12 at 12:54 am }

Do you know, this has been discussed before on the blog, and the first time I didn’t have much of an opinion of my own, and I thought you made reasonable points and agreed with you. But as time goes by I’m not so sure.

Cryptic-style marketing is a powerful technique. Think about it this way – teacher-led classrooms can be useful in imparting certain types of information to certain students. Other students benefit more from other, more student-centred techniques. Telling people stuff and linking to informational posts is a teacher-centred approach. Writing cryptic memes is a student-centred approach, which aims to motivate the individual to find the information out for themselves, which will stick better with certain types of learners. And the fact you keep feeling motivated to post about it is slowly bringing me to think that the campaign might actually be working.

Breast cancer is an issue close to my heart. My mother had it. My maternal grandfather died of it. I am at increased risk of it, and so are my sisters. I’m not about to stumble over things like the use of the word “girlie” when it comes to getting the message across – although I would like to see a greater emphasis on breast cancer in men, since even today people are surprised to learn that my grandfather died of breast cancer, because they didn’t know men could get it.

And then for your part, I thank you deeply for linking to the hard facts, for making them more easily findable for those following the meme, and for handing them out plainly for those who prefer to learn by listening, rather than doing.


9 Mud Hut Mama { 08.23.12 at 2:43 am }

Thank you for these links!

10 Kristin { 08.23.12 at 2:45 am }

LOVE this…and am so sick of those cryptic memes that raise the awareness of NOTHING.

11 JustHeather { 08.23.12 at 3:36 am }

Ack! I just posted about a huge bowl full of fruit on FB the other day. I wonder what that says about me…? *giggle* Ok, I actually did eat a bowl full of fruit.

On a serious note, I’ve been on the ‘upset’ end of these memes and won’t be participating in them anymore. I will be sharing proper links to BC awareness sites. Thanks for the links, Mel.

12 Lollipop Goldstein { 08.23.12 at 9:34 am }

Bea, this isn’t student-led education because it isn’t education (though it is cryptic marketing, though no one is sure of the product since it certainly isn’t breast cancer awareness. For that to hold, you would need to be able to Google and find the answer provided by the people doing the marketing. If not, it’s not really marketing any more than Paul Ryan Gosling is marketing for the 2012 campaign).

Student-led education on Facebook would be “what can you tell me about breast cancer?” Teacher-led would be what I am proposing — feeding people the answers about breast cancer because I don’t believe the average person would Google to find information. I think we’re inherently lazy, and if we don’t understand a cryptic FB status, we pass over it. Hence why so many people announce terrible intentions on FB and yet we pass over those messages.

If at the end of a doctor’s visit, your doctor said to you, “blueberry.” And you asked her, “what do you mean? Eat more blueberries? Don’t eat blueberries?” and she just stood there smiling at you benignly without answering. And you went home and Google “blueberry” which brought you to dozens of pages about the fruit but no additional information so you Google, “what does it mean when my doctor says ‘blueberry’?” and find that someone out there (not your doctor) has written a post about how doctors are trying to get patients more involved in their own health by cryptically saying “blueberry” to them, would you nod and say, “aaaah, smart idea!” Or would you say, “fuck that. This is my health and there isn’t room in the world of health for games?”

My response would be “fuck that.” Could you really say, “great idea!”

13 Bea { 08.23.12 at 10:47 am }

Yeah, but the meme is getting mentioned on TV and across the internet, and is tied in with breast cancer awareness seasons. You can easily find out that it is about breast cancer and then it’s right there at the front of your mind when the media start revving up with the facts.

Perhaps student-led education isn’t the right term. But some people get hooked in by these sorts of games who would pass over ordinary informational campaigns. I certainly don’t say it works for everyone, but I’m not sure I can see the harm in trying to broaden the net. As you point out, people who aren’t into it will mostly just pass it over anyway.

If my doctor said “blueberry” to me I would tell him/her I am really, deeply uninterested in playing cryptic games and if s/he’s got something to tell me then spit it out because I’m never ever going to get the message otherwise. I don’t even like cryptic in crosswords (and I certainly haven’t felt personally drawn to the facebook campaign). And blueberry = vague, general involvement in health isn’t very targeted, although I guess it would be different if there was a widely-celebrated patient-advocacy month (although patient advocacy strikes me as being something more local in flavour – it seems like it would be more heavily tied to your local health system – so it would be harder to send a concentrated message). So yeah, it wouldn’t appeal to me, but if I could easily shrug and pass it over without being affected, I would… shrug and pass it over without being affected.

But I know a couple of people (both related, to each other and to me) who really only start listening when you start being oblique and mysterious and making them puzzle things out. One of these people (maybe both, but more likely one in particular) would not only have to know what the meme was about, but would then go ahead and learn up on breast cancer just to be sure she was one step ahead of all the other players, in case there was a round two coming (this person was actually the first person to clue me in on the breast cancer meme the first time I saw it, complete with a whole stack of related information). For both people, this sort of technique would link “breast cancer” with “interesting” in their minds somehow, making them much more ready to listen when breast cancer month swings around and all the articles appear.

I also know one other person (relative also) who would be drawn in just not to be left out, with similar effects (that is, bringing breast cancer to the front of their minds at a critical time of year, and linking the subject with “being part of the in crowd” in her mind, making her more likely to read a breast cancer article in the newspaper afterwards).

So the more I think about it, the more I change my mind to being in favour. It’s not actually happening completely devoid of readily-available fact-based information, whether or not the two are being organised by the same people (and are we even sure they’re not?).


14 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.23.12 at 4:41 pm }

Oy. Way too cryptic, and more for cuteness and coyishness (yes, I just made up a word, and not a very good one) than for actual education or awareness.

Thanks for these actually helpful links.

15 Io { 08.23.12 at 6:09 pm }

Oh the pregnancy one. Grrr.
I think the problem is that at this point there is not a big problem about breast cancer “awareness” in the general sense. Just because this stupid marketing gets some peoples attention…what does that accomplish? Do those people then do self exams? Give money towards research? Or do they just feel smug that they are aware? (one of the issues with all the crappy pink ribbons)

16 Denise { 08.23.12 at 6:32 pm }

I propose we respond to any of those cryptic posts with an obvious linkage to infertility issues. This is actually an area where awareness is needed greatly. And at least one counter argument is that ‘doesn’t this pit shitty things against each other?’ and maybe it does. But I think arguments and counter-arguments, are one way to shake people out of their bloggy haze to THINK about things. It takes a lot to make people blink at the monitor these days…

17 Bea { 08.24.12 at 4:06 am }

I think Io said something very relevant there – the reason this is an appropriate campaign for breast cancer is because there is already a lot of awareness. A lot of people need the reminder more than they need the information. The pink ribbon campaign comparison is a great one, even if not everyone likes that either.

And I think this is why I’m starting to think it really is working. Speaking personally: the first time I saw it I was confused, so I asked my sister what it was all about, because I know she likes to play these games. She is high risk for breast cancer. She already knew everything about it and told me what I needed to know. The game had also prompted her to spend some time reading up about breast cancer, refreshing her memory. She also told other members of our family about the game, who are also at increased risk for breast cancer, and there was a discussion.

Now we all know. Now, every time we see these memes on facebook we think, “Oh, there’s another one of those breast cancer awareness memes. That reminds me, I’ve been slack about self-exams.” It’s the same thought that enters our minds whenever we see a pink ribbon (whether or not the pink ribbon is “official” cancer campaign material). Even if we weren’t at greater-than-average risk the general risk for women is so high that we should all be keeping on the lookout – but we get busy, and we forget, and time slips past.

On top of that, some people are so irritated by the facebook meme that they are mounting they own, more traditional information campaigns. I’m kind of sorry to know that they are suffering irritation and annoyance, but I’m not sure I’m sorry enough about that to override how glad I am that the information is getting circulated when it otherwise wouldn’t.

It’s hard to motivate people to tune in to your message amongst a barrage of other issues. (I know – I’ve tried organising breast cancer-related events both on and off blog.) As these memes go by, I’m appreciating their power more and more.

(Side note: I was just this morning reading a report which mentions how doctors are using games to improve patient compliance when it comes to taking prescribed medications:
If silly/cute/coy games have the power to remind or motivate, I say let’s go.)


18 Stephanie { 08.24.12 at 8:30 am }

Oh I so agree–FB has become just hat the orignal purpose was for –a place for students….I get so frustrated whenI log on to see how friends or family is doing and Isee all these post this in 5 seconds or you will die,or post if you love jesus stuff–it makes me wanna scream.

19 Emily @ablanket2keep { 08.24.12 at 10:00 pm }

YES! Thank you!

20 Keiko { 08.25.12 at 10:56 am }

Fruit, bra color and fake pg announcements aside- guess what: I already KNOW that breast cancer exists! I personally know breast cancer survivors (3, in fact). I know about feeling my boobs regularly. I know about pink as the official color of “SGK refuses to let you market this color for anything else.” I GET IT.

And you know what, Dumb Ass Facebook memes?

HEART DISEASE IS THE LEADING KILLER OF WOMEN. Where’s the silly fruit statuses for those? Where’s the genuine awareness raising that women should be more concerned about maintaining proper heart health behaviors: watch your cholesterol, balance that overall diet to include leafy greens and dark veggies, add some omega-3’s and for the love of G-d, get off the couch and get moving. It’s a shame that Diet Coke’s red dress campaign has been completely overshadowed by the pink power washing of SGK.

21 Keiko { 08.25.12 at 10:58 am }

Oops, hit submit too soon.

It’s also a shame that FB slacktivism like this fails to actually raise any kind of MEANINGFUL awareness. (lookin at you, KONY2012).

22 Becky { 01.09.13 at 7:25 pm }

The fact that people will google “what does fruit on a facebook status mean” as I have just done will direct people onto pages such as these which provide links for breast cancer awareness. I think it’s quite a good idea. The whole point in the fruit is it’s mystery and people want to find out why everyone is doing it. Then each and every time someone see’s a fruit on someone’s status it will automatically ring alarm bells for breast cancer and make people think twice about checking for symptoms etc.

23 Lynn { 01.31.13 at 8:33 am }

For those that say the fruit game is stupid and doesn’t educate. I am here learning about breast cancer because a friend of mine posted Banana. The game itself doesn’t educate but it sparks interest. In the education field we call it anticipatory set. I’m a guy who posted both orange and watermellon before loking it up.

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