With the advent of social media, a new era of of censorship has been bestowed upon us. Online networks such as Facebook and Instagram are frequently drawing scrutiny for the removal of images which, in their opinion, have violated their company’s guidelines regarding nudity and obscenity.
Censorship extends well beyond that of sexually explicit images, and has been applied to the sharing of images of Baroque marble sculptures, 19th-century nude paintings, photos of women breastfeeding, and even breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.
Social networks seem to be trying to find a balance between cultural sensitivities, freedom of information and artistic expression. With so many polarizing points of view on both sides of the equation, it’s not a debate that’s likely to blow over any time soon.
Where do these policies leave medical practitioners, public health officials, and public service advisories when they are trying to deliver potentially lifesaving messages and preventative techniques to the masses? With social media being ground zero for media consumption, there isn’t a viable alternative when trying to reach an audience of that scale.
Adweek recently reported a public awareness campaign by MACMA (Movimiento Ayuda Cáncer de Mama) that has used creative techniques to turn social media censorship into their advantage. By playing off on the absurd restrictions of content that’s allowed to be posted for women’s health issues, their campaign found a clever way to demonstrate a Breast Self Exam on social networks that ban female nipples.
BreastCancer.org reports that 20% of breast cancers are found by physical exams rather than mammography. As a result, women are recommended to routinely perform breast self-exams as part of their overall breast cancer screening strategy. 1 in 8 women in the United States can expect to develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.
Serious public health issues like these need to be communicated to the public by all means possible. There are far more medical advantages to having patients aware of their bodies, and what they need to do to keep themselves healthy. Social networks are a great platform for sharing these messages, and instigating conversations with people that may not be entirely comfortable discussing these issues in an offline context. The use of humor in public service messages can also be a great way to break down the walls of cultural sensitivity, and to get people talking about important issues surrounding health.