If you’re on Facebook, you might have seen a few status updates recently which are purely emojis of fruit. A few bananas, an avocado or a pineapple perhaps.
But do you know why?
It’s to raise awareness of breast cancer and each fruit has a specific meaning in terms of your relationship status. The whole thing is intended to be a secret from men, who are presumably supposed to wonder what on earth is going on with Jane from next door because she’s posting a random apple as a status update.
Now if you did know why then someone has told you. If you didn’t know why then seeing someone sharing some raspberry emojis obviously hasn’t raised your awareness.
I have received a message about this idea from a few people. And I fully respect their decision to want to join in with this ‘game’, as it says in the message. Some of these people sending the messages have had breast cancer themselves so I know they are not being nonchalant when it comes to wanting to raise awareness.
However, as much as I respect other people’s decision to post a lemon or whatever it is that reflects their relationship status (I wont ruin it all by explaining what each fruit means), these are my reasons for not doing so:
1. Unfortunately for all of us, awareness of breast cancer is already extremely high. I would bet we all know someone who is a family member, a friend, a colleague, or someone related to one of these people, who has had breast cancer. I don’t know that we need fruit emojis to remind us of the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. And 1 in 870 men. Which leads me onto my next point…
2. Men get breast cancer too. By keeping the emoji game a secret from men, we are actually not raising awareness of the very thing about breast cancer that is probably least well known; men can get it too.
3. It doesn’t inform people about breast cancer. My grandfather died 18 months ago now from liver cancer (I know it’s not breast cancer but the point I’ll make is the same). I spent Christmas Day with him and we all had no idea he had cancer. By the 31st March (which would have been his 80th birthday) he had died. Fruit emojis on Facebook a few months before, when he’d had what we all thought were a few ‘funny turns’ (abdominal pain and vomiting), would not have raised my awareness of his cancer. But a post about these things being symptoms of liver cancer may have just prompted me, or other family members, to encourage him to get it checked out. Diagnoses only happen when people are informed. And we can only be informed by facts.
4. Last year the game was to post your bra colour. Which, in some way, was at least a nod to breast cancer. At the very least, some people might check their bra colour and then feel compelled to check their breasts. But recognising that I am married and posting an emoji would not prompt me to check my breasts. And more importantly, it doesn’t prompt me to tell other people to.
Raising awareness of something like breast cancer should not simply accomplish ‘being aware’. It should accomplish more people understanding how to spot the symptoms. It should accomplish more people knowing how to check their breasts for lumps, dimples and irregularities. It should accomplish more people feeling empowered enough to go to the doctor, have it checked out, and trust their instincts.
I suppose the fact that I’ve written this post suggests that the whole thing has raised my awareness and prompted me to have a quick check. But that’s because I knew what the heck was going on when I saw a veritable fruit bowl of status updates appear on my Facebook feed.
To make sure we raise awareness for everyone, is it surely not better to share a link to a video for self-examination or a post which highlights lesser known signs and symptoms? Because these things prompt not just awareness but action?
And when awareness of this awful disease is already so high, I believe that it’s informed action that is going to help us beat it.
(I’m really not trying to be a spoilsport and ruin the game and I fully respect everyone’s decision to join in. These are simply my reasons for not doing so).