Bras, Purses and Drinks: Statuses Without Substance are Miscommunicated Messages

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Facebook users utilize their status updates in numerous ways – to share their current state of being or location, announce news, ask questions or opinions, advertise, or display a meaningful song lyric or inspirational quote. Sometimes status content becomes a meme– a small piece of content that spreads voluntarily around the internet.

My friend recently posted “Tequila!” as her Facebook status on a Tuesday night. She is one of the last of my friends that I imagine would write a status update involving alcohol, especially on a school night. The only rational reason I considered she posted this word was that she was watching Pee-wee Herman dance to “Tequila.”

So I commented on her status, “WHAT? Tequila on a Tuesday?!” She immediately responded, “LOL – I’ll message you.”

In her message, she explained that this update is for breast cancer awareness. Women are supposed to post the alcohol that represents their relationship status (an explanatory list accompanied the message and can be found in a prTini post here). Tequila means single. I laughed –  not at my friend, just at the concept.

OK, this little “game” was obviously causing surprise and wonder. But what message was it sending about breast cancer? Not a very detailed or conclusive one. This meme follows after last year’s “What color is your bra?” and “I like it…” trends that had the same intention: to get women talking about breast cancer.

In some ways, these memes worked. According to a Washington Post blog, Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Facebook fan count increased from 135 to 700 within two hours during the bra craze. The Facebook group “Bra Color as My Status” now has 2,650 people who “like” it. On the other hand, there is another group called “RED, GREEN, PINK, BLACK, B*TCH, I Don’t Care About Your Bra Color!” which has 3,395 fans. Although the creators of the latter group admit that at first they were unaware the movement was about breast cancer (and that they fully respect the cause) they still keep the page for laughs.

Without a concrete reason for the attention-grabbing phrases, a credible source (the original source of these memes is still unknown for certainty), and a call to action (besides “make men wonder what we’re up to and try to get on the news”), these memes fall on deaf ears. Effective message delivery for activism has to cause momentum and provide material for the respondents to run with it, as opposed to standing in a polka-dot bra with a martini in hand waiting for someone to ask what they are causing awareness for besides themselves. In the least, the message should contain a link to an activism website or a cancer foundation for more information and donation opportunities.

Whaling says, “PR partially involves inciting meaningful action by incorporating the right mix of tools and tactics to deliver the right message to the right audience.” If these memes were intended to send messages about breast cancer awareness and supporting survivors, they have gone awry. People are well-aware of breast cancer. Pink has become a symbol of the disease – a sign of honor and hope for those who fight it. Breast cancer is no longer taboo to say; in fact, more and more paraphernalia (if you will) play with the sexuality of it (“I love boobies” bracelets and “Real men make time for the girls” t-shirts). I don’t see anything wrong with these messages, including the bra color, unless they are disconnected from the cause, which the drink status seems to be. What does a symbolic alcohol for your relationship status have to do with breast cancer?

Sure, it’s fun, makes you smile, and hey – people are talking about it – but is it really affecting progress towards preventing breast cancer or supporting those who have it? Effective health communication should influence people’s thoughts or behavior in a positive way to cause change. Can this even be considered health communication? Or is it just a fun gimmick? I’d love to know what you think.

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