By Rebecca Price
My favorite episode of “The Office” is Michael Scott’s rabies awareness fun run—or, to be more precise, “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.”
In this episode, Michael decides that the public needs to become aware of the dangers of rabies, organizing a 5K for the employees of Dunder Mifflin to do as a company. But what he doesn’t realize is that everyone already knows about rabies, so they don’t need to raise awareness for it.
Perhaps I’m not as in-the-know as some of my fellow classmates, but I have never understood how raising awareness is actually effective. Every November, I see people sharing about No-Makeup November on social media, which I know that many girls at Asbury are involved in, and I applaud them for it. I know that they believe in the cause and are trying to do their part to end sex trafficking.
But I still wonder what it accomplishes, really. First off, how is not wearing makeup going to make people more aware about sex trafficking? Is someone honestly going to go up to a girl and ask point-blank, “Why aren’t you wearing makeup?” And even if he did, how should she respond? “I’m raising awareness for sex trafficking.”
Well, I guess she told him. Now he knows about sex trafficking and can now…what? Know that sex trafficking happens, which is something that everyone at this school already knows?
Let’s get real for a second: we’re a lazy culture, and, although our generation is very aware of social and cultural issues, we want to promote these causes in the most passive way, and thus the least effective way, as possible. Facebook seems to be the most popular platform for promoting popular causes.
I see too much of this passive involvement—or slacktivism—here at Asbury. People wear pink during breast cancer awareness month and buy products with the pink ribbon on it. Students share the latest Invisible Children video. Not that any of these things are bad, but it seems to end there.
According to an Atlantic article titled, “UNICEF Tells Slacktivists: Give Money, Not Facebook Likes,” the Swedish branch of the non-profit UNICEF created a campaign that said, “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.” Their main message was that, while social media is a great way to start, social activism can’t begin and end with a Facebook post. “Likes don’t save children’s lives,” UNICEF Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant said in the article. “We need money to buy vaccines, for instance.”
Additionally, a piece on Forbes.com titled, “Why Cause Marketing Can Actually Backfire,” points out that “the death rate from breast cancer hasn’t changed in a decade, despite the ubiquity of breast cancer awareness cause marketing. Given that stat, it’s pretty unlikely anyone unaware of breast cancer will become aware due to yet another pink product.”
However, please don’t think that I’m implying that girls who aren’t wearing makeup this November are lazy or don’t care about their cause. And I do understand that awareness has its place. People need to be aware of a cause before they can take action. But Asbury is already aware of causes such as sex trafficking, breast cancer and child soldiers. What happens when no one takes action after they have achieved awareness?
I don’t think people still need to wear pink so that others will know that breast cancer is a thing; we know. That being said, I don’t mean to belittle those who participate in wearing pink (or another color for another cause) in honor of a loved one. Some causes are very personal, and I don’t mean to offend anyone by my argument.
We are some of the most privileged individuals in the world, and it’s our responsibility to actively help people. There are so many outreach programs you can get involved with on campus. You can contact Heather Tyner (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the Asbury Outreach Coalition for more information.
Not only that, but instead of throwing old clothes away or just putting them on the free table, give them to Goodwill. Go out of your way to encourage a fellow student. Participate in Operation Christmas Child or support a child through Compassion or even a missionary family (if you are financially able). Do I do all of these things? No. Should I? Absolutely!
Do Something, a non-profit based out of New York City, has tons of campaigns that are easy to get involved with. One of these is called “Give a Spit,” which requires you to swab your cheek, and, once you send your sample in, you will automatically be added to a bone marrow data base. This way, if anyone who is a match needs a bone marrow donor, you can save a life.
Whatever you do, don’t be a slacktivist. Care about your cause and get involved however you can. Social media is a great starting point, but, eventually, you need to pick up the slack and act.