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The Accidental Genius of The #nomakeupselfie


If you haven’t seen the wave of naked faces littering up your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed in recent weeks, then you probably live in a cave.  Or somewhere without wifi. The trend spiralled within a matter of days, bringing out a whole gamut of vocal opinions in people – some lauding the benevolent and some criticising the vanity of the current #nomakeupselfie phenomenon, although there is something intriguing at hand here.

Initially the movement started with absolutely no input from any charities, starting as more of a Neknominate trend, but with women making friends bare their naked faces all over the internet and including vague hashtags relating to cancer prevention.

The natural reaction, due to the annoying selfie era we’ve entered, was to look at this and shake our heads in disdain. The common thought being:

“These people aren’t doing anything to raise money or awareness for cancer, they just want to make us aware they’re not ugly without makeup.”

Initially, this certainly seemed true.

The selfie haters came out in force, who rightly pointed out the overt vanity and empty altruism at hand, and requested people to include links and numbers in order to donate to a number of cancer charities.

In a matter of hours, the vague tag of #cancerawareness was replaced by many with links and numbers to text donations to. Then the bravest of all stepped in with photos of their mastectomies as the movement suddenly snowballed into a genuine cause, plucked out of the hands of the average duck face pouters who started it all. Celebrities such as Holly Willoughby and Cheryl Cole got in on the action and, boys being boys, a fleet of ‘manginas’ also popped up to show their support, forever burning themselves into our retinas, for better or for worse.


Cheryl Cole’s selfie offering

Cancer charities then jumped at this genuine opportunity to raise awareness and also money off the back of this accidental stroke of genius. This movement has played beautifully off the social media generation’s love of itself, forced them into something worthwhile and, most importantly, actual monetary donations have been flooding in as a result. Cancer Research UK alone has seen a spike of £15,000 of donations since this all started.

In recent years, people have become happy to claim they support something by liking a Facebook post, but will never actually protest for it or do anything more tangible than sharing a link, a process that has coined the withering term, ‘slacktivism’.  The effectiveness of online petitions has recently been held up for question, but clicking that ‘sign’ button makes you at least feel like you’re making a difference without the inconvenience of leaving your laptop.  However, as the #nomakeupselfie phenomenon has demonstrated, the initial vanity aspect of showing all your Facebook friends that you’re going to cure cancer through the power of your bare face alone, actually has the capacity to transform into something tangible and beneficial.  This could be the start of further causes receiving more than an e-following, and may encourage people to consider fighting for their beliefs in real life, rather than just online. Sure, it’s not thousands of people taking to the streets, but it’s certainly a progression.

Most people who visit the CALM website have experience of, or have a caring eye for, the issues and stigmas around mental health. Trends such as this can only help causes like our own.

So, I’d like to thank the selfie-obsessives who began this movement with faux philanthropy. I’d also like to thank the most negative of you for making these people question their motivations and calling for real charitable support, and last but not least I’d like to thank the wave that came next, who included the donation links and turned this into a legitimate campaign for good, as well as opening the door for future campaigns for awareness.

You’ve all played your part, whether you’ve realised it or not.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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