Students Use Facebook to Raise Money and Awareness

On Friday, January 8th, Facebook statuses were dotted with descriptions of colors, patterns, and various material:

“Black lace!”

“Pink with hearts <3”

“Dirty white ;)”

These were not sensory details of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, rather, they were the colors of women’s undergarments. Bras, to be exact.

The mass status change was prompted by a chain e-mail sent out Tuesday and Wednesday, asking women to change their statuses to the color of their bra to show support for the fight against breast cancer.

Soon, it seemed everyone had caught on, coloring the networking site in a most peculiar way.

“All of a sudden I just started seeing pink! Pink! Hot pink! Even my friend from UC Santa Cruz asked me about it,” said second-year Roya Shahnazari, who claims many of her friends dove quite enthusiastically into the sweeping trend.

This overnight phenomena was not restricted by state or even country lines.

The American Cancer Association has been battling rumors coming from India concerning the origin of the chain e-mails, while one participant claimed she had received notice to partake by her relatives in Nigeria.

There was no doubt that the word was spreading quickly, as not long after the Facebook community responded in the usual manner.

Men began jokingly changing their statuses to the color of their respective undergarments, and groups like “Not Posting the Color of Your Bra” and “We Don’t Want to Know Your Bra Color” began cropping up.

Meanwhile, other groups such as “Breast Cancer Awareness. I updated my Status with my Bra Colour,” which was started in England in July by a small group of users, had reached a membership of 30,314 fans by Friday at 6 p.m.

Breast cancer survivors told their stories, leaving extensive statuses that not only described bra color but also commemorated and noted others involved in the struggle.

One status read, “In honor and memory of my mother, who passed away from breast cancer 13 years ago.”

Still, some were skeptical, on the fence when it came to revealing their true colors; questions surrounding the relevance or use of the status changes were raised by many.

NPR journalist Shereen Meraji posted her cutting opinion on her “All Tech Considered” blog, saying, “Here’s the thing — I changed my status, but I don’t know anything more about breast cancer or how to protect myself against it. Now all my Facebook friends just know the color of my bra.”

“I mean, what’s the point? Does it honestly help anything? It gets the word out, but doesn’t exactly bring in revenue,”  third-year English major Justine Hamric said.

One such monetary success for a cause manifests itself in yet another form of social media.

Since the tragedy in Haiti, millions have been using the networking tool Twitter to raise money, get support for the cause, spread awareness, and actually help locate lost loved ones.

Wyclef Jean, the legendary musician and Haiti native, has been one of the most active advocates for Haitian support on Twitter.

The artist is currently tweeting multiple times an hour, posting in urgent upper-case, “Haiti needs your help! Text YELE to 501 501 and 5 dollars will go to Haiti Earthquake Relief fund.”

Are these statuses effective? Do they stimulate enough revenue to make any sort of significant dent in contribution pots?

“I think it just says something that awareness is even being spread through Facebook and Twitter statuses. And the fact that it’s catching on says even more,” second-year sociology major Yasmin Arbab said.

And indeed, many are harking on the progression that statuses have made for themselves.

What was once just a question of “What are you doing?” has somehow morphed into a question of “Who are you supporting?”

Have statuses begun to fulfill another, more specified niche: the promotion of ideals and causes? Or is this yet another case of what Meraji calls ‘“slacktivism”: virtual activism with no real results?

“I guess nobody can really tell where statuses will go,” Arbab said. “It certainly will be interesting to see.”