#MoreThanAHashtag

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I didn’t share your Facebook status, the “Share this with everyone!” directive notwithstanding. I ignored the guilt trip attempt as well. The baiting, “Let’s see who really cares” warning complete with instructions on how to copy and paste the status in case anyone is new to the whole computer thing.

I didn’t share it, even though I appreciated the multi-colored hearts, the beautiful sentiments, the clever hashtags. I know that you are doing your part in raising awareness for whatever cause is currently trending. And I know the cause is worthy judging from the amount of likes and shares that your post generates. Your hashtags trend on twitter and for a small window of time we are an online community of people dedicated to altruism and love and kindness.

All with a hashtag and a click of a button.

I don’t know when the world started accepting that action and change requires nothing more than two seconds of sharing. It’s true, we are spreading awareness, getting the word out, letting people know that we are outraged, or compassionate, but we are lying to ourselves if we think that real change can be accomplished that way. Real change requires a commitment. It requires boots on the ground action. It necessitates putting some teeth behind that hashtag, behind that status update.

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As someone who has been touched by breast cancer and pediatric brain tumors, these posts tend to strike a nerve. I know the sentiment is coming from a pure place, but I also know that there is so much that can be done beyond the copy and paste model that currently fills my newsfeed. Childhood cancer is on the rise. More women are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer than in previous years. Getting the word out about these diseases is important, but so is finding cures.

These cancer posts are particularly jarring. It’s outrageous that in 2016 there are still children dying from diseases that might be cured with proper funding for research. No amount of #f-cancer or #fightcancer postings will do anything. If we want to truly fight these devastating illnesses, we need to believe in science and fund the people who are working towards cures.

If you are moved enough to write a post on Facebook, then move yourself to donate money to research. Write a status that says you gave money to help fight cancer. Send out a tweet with a link to places to donate. Bring awareness about cutting edge research that needs funding so that it can save lives, save families. Find foundations privately funded by families who have been shattered by these diseases and are working to ensure that no child has to endure what their child is going through. Actively take part in the greatest kickstarter ever that’s been running for years behind the scenes of every hashtag, meme, and status update but has somehow fallen behind the far easier “click and share” culture of publicly feeling good.

I am not a fundraiser. Thankfully, my son’s tumor didn’t take us onto the oncology floor and my breast cancer was caught at Stage 1. But so many others have seen the darker side and knowing that constantly reminds me that I have to do more than write 140 characters or slap a ribbon on my chest.

Keep your hearts and hashtags – awareness is important – but if you want to really do something, take up the fight. Next time you get a share on your timeline, next time you see a clever hashtag, donate to cancer research and share your action, not just your status.

Time is critical for some, but you can still make a difference.

Scientists are standing by.

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Categories: Education, Insanity, Philosophy

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