Chain letters and secret societies where the subjects of just two of the many strong opinions held by my devout Christian mother.
I still remember the low rumbling anxiety in my centre when I received my first letter, turned over to find no sender details. The contents were ripe with emotional manipulation – concurrently promising riches and invoking retributions. Still a little fearful it was hard to doubt her clarity as she screwed the letter up and threw it away. It’s not good if it tries to make you do something by making you feel bad she said.
Apart from the fact that the Masons were the antichrist, she had another good point. They’re marked by secret rituals and symbols. If they’re so good, why do they have to keep what they do a secret?
My Facebook feed regularly ask me to share this post or that in support of this or that cause. They all ask the same thing – to show that I care by cutting and pasting a message on my social media feed. The progression to the Messenger service makes these requests more targeted.
They are all important causes and worthy of promotion – stroke awareness or suicide or breast cancer prevention. When I was a young teenager, my mum had a stroke. We all thought she was going to die, even the doctors. I was so angry that she was going to leave me before I was ready to go out into the world. (BTW If she knew I was writing this she’d say that Jesus saved her.) I’ve got a list of the women I know, surviving it, fighting it, dying from, breast cancer currently. Only a few years ago I lost a dear dear friend to another form of cancer. I get it. You don’t have to scratch far below the surface to see the ravages of illness and disease in our community.
A little while ago I watched my Facebook feed fill with hearts and received a number of personal requests to share a heart. One of the messages referenced a woman called Connie so I went looking for her and found just a little about her journey. I discovered she died of cancer having fought many cancers during her life, breast cancer being one of them. I found it through the Facebook page established by her brother – Love Your Sister. You probably knew all about it but it was new to me. Connie’s cause had clearly touched the lives of many women. The sharing of the single heart was intended as a message of love, support and solidarity in the same vein as ‘love your sister’.
With all the good will abounding, I’ve been contemplating why it felt that something was cutting against the grain. Breast cancer frightens the bejesus out of me. I am super-bad on self-examination, preferring to leave it up to a biennial mammogram. I was relieved when someone posted another kind of ‘love your sister’ message – reminding women to know their own breasts, providing a ‘how to’ on self-exam and ways to make a donation to breast cancer research. This practical guide was perfect. I need urgent, fervent reminders to check my breasts. Reading about Connie and other friends now facing breast cancer has made me consciously commit to my next self-exam. My growing unease was less about breast checks and more about how Facebook is being used that is worrying me because it reminds me of chain letter and secret groups.
When a post or issue moves me, I can decide for myself if I want to ‘like’ it, ‘love it’, or share it. Liking and sharing posts can help raise awareness, it can also reinforce social pressure by making people feel guilty if they don’t do something someone else wants. Social media can be the springboard for action though, that’s when it can really help causes. Maybe Facebook should ditch the ‘like’ button and replace it with a take action button? That might help us focus our hearts on the concrete strategies we can do to improve our circumstances. I’m starting a list here. You can add to it if you want.
Make a pledge. Educate yourself. Get health checks. Have conversations with your friends. Support each other. Donate to research and treatment. Write to, and ring politicians. Sign petitions. What else?