Opinion Analysis

Monday 18 November 2019

There's something about do-gooding on social media that doesn't sit right

There’s something a little self-serving about some of those ‘Happy' videos and headshaves... the need for affirmation validated because it's for charity
There’s something a little self-serving about some of those ‘Happy' videos and headshaves... the need for affirmation validated because it's for charity

Helen Moorhouse

Boy, that escalated quickly. Who'd have thought that an uncovered pimple here, some exposed pores there could whip up such a frenzy of goodwill? €200,000 in the first 24 hours for the Irish Cancer Society alone, over £1m in the same timespan for Cancer Research UK?

It's sure to spawn a raft of copycats. Already today I've stumbled across a male of the species 'feinphicced' with a sock on his area-of-the-anatomy-that-rhymes-with-rock, in support of testicular cancer. Because the internet needs more stuff like that.

What actually is the No Makeup Selfie? The viral phenomenon that has undefined origins is associated with cancer charities and has raised shedloads of unsolicited donations for gobsmacked, deserving organisations?

Why, it's the internet saving mankind, fighting tooth and nail . . . and blemish and freckle.

So why does it grind my gears?

I hate and fear cancer. In the past eight years I've experienced breast, colon and brain cancer at close range in my immediate family and friends.

I don't hate charity. I sponsor cycles, hikes, parties and bra walks. I buy ribbons and daffodils. I don't feel the need to yell about it on social media every time I do, but I do sometimes use it to encourage my friends to contribute, too. And I have also been gratefully and humbly on the receiving end of the good that the Irish Cancer Society does.

But I won't be posting a No Makeup Selfie.

It's nothing to do with vanity or meanness. So maybe I'm just inherently evil, but there is something about do-gooding on social media that just doesn't sit right with me. Something a little disingenuous and self-serving about some of those 'Happy' videos and headshaves.

The No Makeup Selfie (NMS) is kind of like that, but with added girl. 'What, me? Naturally beautiful? Pshaw!', the need for affirmation validated because it's for charidee.

But it's for cancer awareness!

Oh, well that's okay then. Because I wasn't aware of this cancer you speak of until I saw you without any blusher.

YES, the NMS trend is a bandwagon with benefits. Yes, it has done good. But it's not as if cancer came on the scene at the same time as the iPhone. So why can't good be done for goodness' sake? Why does it have to involve self-promotion? If there's any promotion to be done, then why not promote the cause itself?

Here's an idea. If we donate, instead of a picture of our pasty, self-satisfied mugs, how about we post or tweet a useful fact about cancer and nominate our friends to do the same? A statistic? A reminder of how vital self-examination is, or the importance of early detection? Information about prevention. How about the words 'Check yourself', with a simple diagram showing how to do it properly?

Or a message like 'Quit smoking – it will kill you and I don't want that to happen'. Or 'Try to eat a little better and exercise more. I don't want you to get cancer. Pass it on'.

Because the NMS is 'a bit of fun for a good cause', isn't it? And all that stuff's not fun.

Well neither is real cancer. And with real cancer, no one really cares about the 'like if you hate cancer' posts and 'I've kicked cancer's butt' posts and whether or not people are wearing concealer.

A cancer sufferer and the people who care about them just want their health and their lives back, many of them knowing that can never happen. Real cancer, even at its most superficial, is pain, indignity and suffering. It's sick anticipation of what's coming next on a rollercoaster ride you can't get off. It's terrifying. And you can't log off from it.

The heart – and certainly the wallet – of the No Makeup Selfie trend is in the right place. But imagine how much more genuinely powerful this viral initiative could be if its head were there, too.

All of the information that the human race needs is at our fingertips online. So imagine taking advantage of that and using it for good? How much more useful would it be to arm the people you care about with knowledge, instead of vanity shots? How many likes would that get?

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss