Laura Phillips

#nomakeupselfie – When Social Media Works Despite Itself

1st Apr 2014 Social Media, Facebook, Social Media, Social Media, Twitter 5 minutes to read

Charity Social Media Unless you’ve been out of the country or living under a rock you can’t have failed to notice the amount of ‘makeup-less selfie’ posts splattered across Facebook recently. It shows the immense power we have when we exert our digital muscles for positive things. Here’s my analysis of what it means for the digital world.

A few weeks ago women began taking photos of themselves and posting them on Facebook with the hastag #nomakeupselfie to raise awareness of breast cancer and cancer charities.

How Did It Start?

No one seems to know where this particular craze began, though it echoes strong similarities with the ‘Dare To Bear’ campaign last year, where asked women to go without make up for a day. However, the difference here was that Escensual encouraged these ladies to gain sponsorship, and even sponsored participants £1 themselves.

This unsanctioned, unaffiliated ‘campaign’ for breast cancer began life as a series of women taking make-up free ‘selfies’ with no reference to sponsorship, no link to cancer charities, just a line to say they are ‘raising awareness’ of cancer, which sparked a number of debates and left many being labelled narcissists, self-congratulatory, arrogant, and worse.

I, for one, was not a fan initially and found it profoundly frustrating. It was achieving virtually nothing; no links to charity, no education, no donations. Just selfies that made participants appear that they felt brave for doing it to raise awareness…but how brave does it seem when compared to dealing with the very subject they seek to help? I don’t mean to do down those who chose to participate; the vast majority thought they were doing a good thing. But did no one initially stop to think ‘HOW is this helping?’ or ‘WHAT ELSE could I do?’

Awareness is of course a massive deal for every charity, and many of these images were posted with a status that the participant was ‘raising awareness of cancer’ with no mention of charities or donations. In 2014, do we need to be made aware of cancer? Or would the cause be better served giving us a little nudge in the ribs to read more about the signs? Or an easy means to donate?

How Did It Help?

If it had carried on in this vein I’m not sure it would have made a huge amount of difference. The vast majority of the public are aware of what cancer is, and how it can devastate lives. In my humble opinion what may be more useful is to share infographics and other forms of education about how to check for cancer, and equally important to get people to donate money. To start with this campaign did neither. Here’s an example:


But then things began to change – people pulled others up on it…


They questioned the validity of it…


And then this started happening, people were donating and showing others how to donate…

Michelle Good Post Example Natalie

Which led to this, testament that donation was becoming the norm…

Maddy Jenny D

The charities started taking notice…

Cancer Research UK

…and then it started expanding further, and the boys got involved too…

Maddy 2 Lottie Irish Radio Manny

…a teaspoon of comedy was added…

Chicks Be Like 2

..and all of a sudden, by the power of the public, this happened.

Cancer Research UK 2

The Power of Social Media

Within 24 hours this originally ill-conceived exercise led to £1 million in donations. What started off as a campaign about as useful as planking, has created over £2 million for Cancer Research UK, plus more to other cancer charities, in less than 3 days. The public took something that was well intentioned but almost entirely ineffectual, and turned it into millions of pounds for charity with just a few tweaks and a little knowledge sharing. Now, we are discussing with friends and complete strangers what ELSE we can do, how else we can make this work, what other charities could benefit such as charities for prostate cancer. Isn’t that incredible?

What Can I Do To Help?


You can donate to one of many cancer charities via these links:

Check Yourself

Not in an IceCube kind of way, actually check yourself. The quicker the signs are spotted the less damage cancer gets to cause, and the better the chances of recovery.

What Does This Campaign Say About Joe Public?

I personally think the campaign says an awful lot, and gives us a valuable insight into how we use and perceive social media these days. This campaign highlights a frankly shocking lack of understanding of the power the people wield within their integrated digital world.

Like sheep, a large number of people began posting photos of themselves without questioning the logic or benefit. Like the scams and like pages I have bleated on about time and time again, we amble unquestioningly into situations online of which we have little understanding. In this instance it is a harmless task; attempting to do something good, and eventually succeeding despite itself. This is not always the case as you can read in my previous posts, Help a Human, Not a Hoaxer

I also think that examples like this help to educate users and make them think about exactly what they are doing online. I like to question things, to the point of annoyance sometimes, and I’m not alone. WHY should I do this? WHO sent it to me? WHAT will it achieve? HOW? When online, these become important questions, and it’s by asking them that this incredible feat was achieved. Equally, doesn’t it show what immense power we have when we all work together for a common goal? Hopefully it will encourage people to participate for good causes more and exert their digital muscles for positive things, like the recent Pay It Forward trend, or when Neknominations metamorphosed into random acts of kindness. More of that would be pretty awesome.

What’s Next?

Sellotape Selfie

This, apparently. Think I’ll stick to donating!

Image Credits: Social Concept from BigStock

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