Selfies raise millions despite campaign confusion

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Katherine George
Life Reporter

It started out as a small gesture online, but ended up making a big difference in the lives of people with cancer.

The #NoMakeUpSelfie trend is a grassroots movement that emerged from the United Kingdom, and went viral on social media.

In the beginning, it wasn’t created for cancer awareness, said Rowena Pinto, vice president of public affairs at the Ontario division of the Canadian Cancer Society. Cancer Research UK however, started to promote the message that individuals could text to donate in order to make these pictures more meaningful. In two days, £2 million pounds (nearly $3.7 million Canadian) was raised for Cancer Research UK

“The Canadian Cancer Society was contacted by people wanting to donate money, so we got on board right away,” said Pinto.

On Sunday, March 30, the Canadian Cancer Society received $10,000 and 2,000 selfies from the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign.

The majority of the funds came from Ontario, said Pinto.

Despite the success of the trending movement, the campaign suffered a lot of negative backlash from the media and outsider perspectives.

It is all just an end to justify the means, said Lynne Thomas, program coordinator of media communications at Humber College.

“It started out as just more social media narcissism. It was an opportunity for people to take more pictures of themselves,” she said. “People don’t know what they are raising money for, where the money goes, and they don’t really care.”

A recent report revealed that thousands of participants of the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign have inadvertently donated to other organizations like Unicef and the World Wildlife Foundation after a number of participants texted the wrong code to the telephone number.

The #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign required users to type the code ‘BEAT’, but found many mobile devices autocorrected the code to ‘BEAR’, a code to adopt polar bears.

Meanwhile, UNICEF reported that more than $18,000 had been donated to it by mistake, after users texted the word ‘DONATE.’

The public’s involvement with the campaign is a large reason why it’s become successful explained Pinto.

“Social media in itself is just a way of one person being a part of something much bigger than themselves in a fairly easy way,” she said.

“It isn’t a matter of getting involved in an issue that is larger than themselves, but it is a great expression of mob mentality and group dynamics. We want to be apart of something,” said Thomas.

“It is appealing to the younger demographic that doesn’t want to engage with us in the same way as their parents or people older than them,” Pinto said.

However, the Canadian Cancer Society is happy to provide an opportunity to contribute to the lives of people living with cancer, she said.

It isn’t a bad usage of social media because the end result was beneficial, but people on social media need to be more informed, said Thomas.

“It’s a flash in the pan – it’s here and it’s gone and people have little understanding of the back story. What is important is that people on social media understand it is only the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on around the world,” she said.