Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bringing Awareness to Useless Awareness

I have a problem with the word "awareness."

The fall tends to be a time of disease awareness months. October is breast cancer and November is diabetes. But even outside of fall you can see ribbons everywhere symbolizing anything from autism to soldiers overseas. Everyone is trying to get their cause out there, everyone is trying to "raise awareness."

The problem is that this word is grossly misunderstood. The whole point is lost on a lot people simply because "they were already aware of cause xyz." Everybody knows there is breast cancer. Everybody thinks there should be a cure. What on earth does wearing a pink ribbon possibly fix? No cure is gotten from that. The argument is usually that if someone really wants to do something good they should raise money for the cure.

I'm not about to argue that people shouldn't raise money from causes, but perhaps I can shed some light on what I think truly effective "awareness" campaigns are.

Sure, you're aware of breast cancer. Sure, you think there should be a cure. However, do you have a true emotional understanding of the disease, how it affects its victims and families, how much pain women (and some men) go through because of it? Unless someone in your family has ever had breast cancer, it's likely your only "awareness" in this regard comes from Lifetime movies.

Truly successful awareness campaigns don't just make someone aware that a disease or cause exists, they make you want to do something. They make you aware of why the cause is important and why you should care. They're motivation to get more people involved in the fight.

So posting a status about where you like to put your purse, and making it vague enough so that it sounds like you're saying where you like to have sex? Essentially useless. You might as well have done nothing at all. All you did was make a provocative statement, but don't go around thinking that you actually HELPED the breast cancer cause.

Writing an article about how it affected you when your mother/grandmother/aunt/sister had breast cancer? Helping people understand why the cause is important, why they should care, why they should help? Well now we're getting somewhere.

I'd still like to applaud effort though. Trying anything, even if it's kind of a waste of time, still shows care and concern which is important.

Tomorrow is hug a diabetic day. Totally useless awareness campaign? Maybe. But I love hugs.


  1. I should totes write something about how my mom got breast cancer, and then got over it and it wasn't really a big deal. Gotta share my experience, y'know?

  2. I suppose if you want people to care LESS about breast cancer, then sure, go for it :P

  3. Well, I mean, the conversation is pretty one-sided right now. You have people saying "ZAMG DIS IS SYRIZZ BIZNASTY" and tossing out pink ribbons and all that jazz, and the opposing view is... apathy. Which is more like the absence of conversation. So if the goal is to help people come to an informed decision as to how much they care, I'd be doing my part.