If you read my first blog “We, as humans, want to be first and we want to win” then you know that I generally believe that most people want to win and/or be first and for no particular reason. That blog specifically spoke to driving, but as my husband has observed (and, as far as I am concerned, correctly to date) people walk like they drive. Do you know what I am talking about? It occurs when I park and exit my car [in a parking lot] about the same time as another patron and they start to speed-up. There are fast walkers but you can tell this is forced. They enter the store before you and slow down or have to come to a stop because they left a spouse or elderly parent lagging behind in the parking lot or they are winded and the charade is over. There was absolutely no need for their action other than to be in front of you. Or, perhaps you see the person that takes a wide turn onto into a parking lot, not really observing others around them and you later barely avoid a grocery cart ankle injury because that same “reckless Rhonda” is channeling her aloof tendencies through a metal cage on wheels. I digress, the point that I am getting to is that there are people who want to be first just for the sake of it are the same people living a double life as sheep. Sheep – you know what they do right? They follow the herd. No questions asked – they go along with whatever because that must be the “right thing”- everyone is doing it. Warning – another traffic metaphor – pay attention the next time you come to a traffic light with two straight or two turning lanes almost always there is a line of cars five [cars] deeper than the other – and for no reason – they are going to the same place. They get in the longer lane because there must be a reason everyone else is doing it. Sheep. Sheep are everywhere and I find that in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, there is an abundance of them and as a human and a woman I find it embarrassing. If you follow social media you have probably seen a variation of the following messages, sent privately on Facebook. “Put the number, followed by the word “inches,” and how long it takes to do your hair… Remember last year so many people took part it made national news and, the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we’re doing this and helped raise awareness!! Do NOT tell any males what the status’ mean, keep them guessing!! And please copy and paste (in a message) this to all your female friends to see if we can make a bigger fuss this year than last year!!! I did my part…now YOUR turn! Go on ladies…and let’s have all the men guessing!!” (Trussell, 2012). This message encourages woman to put an obscure message on the wall of their Facebook page. They are instructed not to tell anyone (e.g. men) what it means – just post and pass along the message to as many other females as possible.
Don’t’ tell anyone?
I am reasonably confident that most women participated, not because they like being herded, but because a) They probably know someone or know someone who knows someone who has been affected by [breast] cancer and wanted to feel like they were somehow helping b) secondary, but certainly an important factor, they felt part of the group. After seeing other women with this message on their Facebook profile they had been tapped for inclusion. Without a thought more women all over the globe obliged. Blogger Daniel DiPiazza had written an article that went viral and he was hopeful to do it again. He reached out to best-selling author Seth Godin for insight on how to write a piece or create something that would go viral. Seth gave this advice;
“The best thing is not to try to write things that will go viral. The best thing is to write for just one person. Make an impact on just one person. Even better, make it so they can’t sleep at night unless they choose to make a difference for one other person. The rest will take care of itself.” (For Daniel’s full blog check it out here). If we look at Godin’s feedback and apply it to the breast cancer movement on Facebook and assume that the first person to start this post just wanted to help we can envision that maybe they sat at their laptop and were desperate for action, desperate for a cure- for their wife, their mother, their sister or their self and this was the first step they took. It was the only thing they knew to do in that moment. When coming from that point-of-view it is easy to see how it started and why it continued. Hold on to that thought as I share another perspective. My sister’s birthday is March 6th, and on this day three years ago I hoped on Facebook to share a fun post reminding the world (or at least my followers/friends) that my younger sister was getting older. I scrolled through my feed and then I saw it, a post that stopped me in my tracks, caught my breath- no, it was not caught, my breath was taken – taken away – my body was erect and defensive. A classmate from high school, 33 years old, claimed this day, March 6th as her ‘D-Day’. Diagnosis day. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. March 6th has always been, to me, a day of celebration, funny cards, silly phone messages, presents and cake. To her this was a day of uncertainty. Over the next two years I read every post she made, every pain, fear, anxiety and hope that she shared – I clung to it. She and I were not close, but we knew each other. I had passed her in the halls [at school] for years, and I remember how she and her sister stood outside their home to board our school bus. She was a new mom now and had hopes of growing her family.
She was the first one I saw to challenge people to not post obscure messages on Facebook. Breast cancer was real for her. It was not a maybe, it was her life. She was not angry but she urged her friends to post something helpful – a reminder to self-check, to get second opinions, to be a self-advocate for health, to remind women and men to take charge of their health and remind their loved ones to do the same, to donate, join a walk – be a part of the movement in a real way. The silly posts hurt her heart, they seemed like more fun than action and it was not acceptable to her. She is a survivor and will forever encourage people in a valuable way.
Sheep are not bad. By design sheep follow and some may argue that we need followers. I disagree. We do not need followers we need advocates and activists. If you think you have been a sheep – a blind follower – you do not have to be any more. Before you act, respond or repost think about what it means. What is your motivation? Do you want to help? If so ask, are you helping? Do you want to educate? If yes, are you educating? Make your voice count.