Forget Facebook Frippery – do something meaningful

ImageThere appears to be a Facebook trend this week. Women are taking ‘selfies’ without makeup, posting the photos on Facebook for, ‘cancer awareness week’ or, ‘breast cancer awareness’ and then nominating some of their friends to do the same. I wasn’t quite sure what the point was really, or how it was raising awareness of cancer. I googled cancer awareness week and actually there is neither one this week nor one in the past few weeks. The month of March is prostate cancer and ovarian cancer awareness month. There are various cancer awareness months in 2014 which can be found here;

Doing something for cancer awareness – be aware of the individuals

This all made me think about how easy it is to be caught up in to ‘doing something for cancer’ via social media and I got to thinking some more. So, this is what I really want to say is; forget Facebook, forget selfies – if you really want to help, want to do something for cancer awareness think about the individuals affected by it.  Here is what you can do…

Think of someone who you know of who is going through or has had treatment for cancer or someone who is or has cared for a loved one with cancer. Then think about how you can offer them a little support. Send them a card, make a meal and drop it round to them or find some other small gift that is useful but also conveys that you are thinking of them.

Ask their partner, member of the family, carer how they are. Usually everyone asks after the person with cancer but the carer still has to do all the normal stuff of daily living, often still going to work and taking on extra responsibilities plus caring for the person who has the illness. It is exhausting, and often lonely being a carer, rarely are they asked how they are.

Give the person with cancer, or their carer, the gift of listening, really listening. Ask them how they are and then listen. Don’t offer verbal band aids of ‘it will be alright’ or ‘think positively’, but instead listen to their unique experience.

Offer to do some housework, some ironing, run the kids to school or an activity. By them a coffee shop gift card so they can have a little time out, a little treat that they might not actually be able to afford. If you are feeling really flush pay some of their electricity or gas bill (living with cancer is expensive and often more heating is essential) or put petrol in their car.

When my partner was having six months of chemotherapy many friends were very kind, those that listened and offered practical help were just amazing. I finish this blog with an example of some of the most moving support that was offered to my partner that was very specific and special to him.

The model steam engine

My partner’s late father had partially built a model steam engine and my partner was sad that it had never been finished. We slightly knew someone who, as a hobby, built model steam engines and we handed my father in law’s very precious model over to him, wondering whether this was really very wise. We should not have worried.  It was methodically worked on with great skill and precision over many, many hours. The model builder became a good friend and gave us regular updates of his progress.

On the day of my partner’s last chemotherapy our, now, friend quietly took a day off work to finish the model. When we got home there was a video on Facebook of the engine up and running. We cried.

So, if you want to support someone with cancer, or their carer, you don’t have to spend hours of your time making a steam engine, but do think about what small thing would be helpful and meaningful to them. Social media can be useful but forget the frippery, make it real.

With thanks to Big Al.


Ten tips to help identify whether social networking groups, pages or individuals posting are legitimate and really animal welfare focused.

In a previous blog I described a recent animal welfare scam. Hoaxes such as this one are worryingly common.

The following ten tips mean that some time and a little detective work is required but in the long run it may prevent even more of your time being wasted, as well as energy, emotions and even money, on what are false claims, scams and hoaxes.

I would suggest that we all have a responsibility that, before sharing posts and information on social media sites, we check what we are distributing is accurate, true and authentic.  If we do not take control of what we share we, at the very least, cause annoyance and concern to our friends and acquaintances.  At the worst the welfare agencies, who are already overwhelmed with cases and reports, can spend significant time and energy responding to high levels of calls and reports which takes staff away from real welfare work. World Horse Welfare (WHW) recently posted a request to social media users to only call them if they have first hand information as WHW were experiencing very high levels of calls and reports that were clogging up their phone lines

As detailed in my earlier bog another very concerning outcome of animal welfare hoxes is that other social media users can be put at risk by responding with offers of help which can involve them visiting areas or sites. Consider this before reposting any welfare items.

  1. Read as many posts and comments on the page or group as you can to help you get a ‘feel’ of what‘s happening and how others are responding.
  2. Do a bit of research – look at who the administrators of a group are, or an individual commentator is.  Have a look at their personal profiles and any other connected pages / groups that they may be involved in.  Have a look at who administrators have invited to join the group.
  3. Check out other similar groups and what they are saying.
  4. Google the individuals involved, check their activity on other social networking sites and visit any websites that they have.
  5. If you have significant concerns check with recognised animal welfare agencies in the area.  You could also contact the police and trading standards to see if they are aware of issues in the locality.
  6. Search for any local newspapers for reports of animal welfare issues.  They are unlikely to print anything that they have been unable to verify.
  7. Check out any photographs being used, are they actually from other, historical welfare cases?
  8. Consider messaging others who are voicing concerns on the social media site to see if others are identifying the same issues as you.
  9. Check if what is being presented is actually a reposting of an old animal welfare story from some time ago.
  10. Listen to your instincts, if you feel there is something not quite right, take notice of it.  Think about someone who you really trust, who is level headed and thoughtful – what would they say about the information that is being presented when weighed up with the information you have gathered from your internet searches?

    So reader, beware. Social media can be used to do a great deal of good, but in a small, but significant, number of cases real harm can be done, to those taken in by a hoax, to those who may be wrongly identified as being at fault in some way and with a major impact on already overstretched welfare agencies. We can all play our part in spreading a false report of a welfare issue and therefore we all need to take responsibility for acting with caution and care.