Am I a horrible person for not participating?

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Photo by Shotlist on Unsplash

When it comes to social media trends, let’s just say I’m not always the first to know. But in the last 24 hours, I’ve received several texts inviting me to participate in a women’s empowerment movement by posting a black and white photo of myself on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Specifically, one text from a friend read, “post a photo in black and white alone, write ‘challenge accepted’ and ‘mention my name.”

According to The New York Times, so far, more than 3 million photos have been uploaded with the #ChallengeAccepted hashtag. That number is growing exponentially by the day.

I’m not here to hate on anything that makes women feel great about themselves, but why does it feel like the 2020 version of chain mail? While there’s no promise of getting rich or falling severely ill by not passing the email on to my 10 closest loved ones, it does feel like I’m somehow against the movement if I don’t participate.

In the ’90s, I could simply delete the email chain and move on. Now I wonder if I don’t post a selfie, will others either think a) I wasn’t cool enough to receive a nomination, b) I’m too cool for silly little games, or c) I don’t care about social progress. None of which are true.

I’m a rebellious person by nature. I tend to brisk when I’m told what to do (just ask my husband), but something feels manipulative about these movements.

When #MeToo started trending, I found it profound and deeply moving. Hundreds of thousands of women joining together to share a lived experience. The difference? No one tagged me and asked me to pass it on.

Challenges like the current form of #ChallengeAccepted (the hashtag is also associated with cancer awareness and other causes) say they are raising awareness for a purpose, but there’s no organization or charity backing the campaigns, nor do they ask anyone to do anything more than simply post a picture and tag their female friends.

The concepts (women’s empowerment in this case) are often broad and vague. Why does black and white matter? Does a selfie really prove I’m loveable and strong?

Camilla Blackett, a TV writer, suggested that the campaign was little more than a vehicle for attractive photos. “What is the point of this #ChallengeAccepted thing?” she tweeted on Monday. “Do people not know you can just post a hot selfie for no reason?”

I’m not so overly cynical I can’t see the “fun” in participating. There’s a sense of “we're all in this together.” And heck, most of us are simply bored and find the pictures pretty and creative.

My Facebook feed is now full of selfies, a really nice distraction from Coronavirus, police, and politics.

There’s also no harm in joining, just like email chains from long ago. They simply get forwarded along until the buzz dies out.

Even so, I’m going to sit this one out. Like Blacket said, if I want to post a hot selfie and talk about social issues, I’ll do it on my accord without pressure to “pass it on”. I find my choice empowering. I invite you to do the same.

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