Selfies, Socks, and a Testicular Cancer Awareness Campaign


As far as Social Media campaigns go, it was a bit on the lewd side, but at least it was for a good cause: raising funds and awareness about testicular cancer. This week the hashtag #CockInASock suddenly started making the rounds on Twitter, and in its wake the selfies poured in. Keeping that hashtag in mind, it is not hard to imagine what the pictures showed; men, naked as jaybirds, with a sock placed strategically over their sense of decency, so to speak. Both shock and awe are now officially in short supply.

The image of dudes in tubes became popularized in the past few decades, in part because of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their many pictures going to and fro and jumping around with only socks to protect them from the elements. It appeared in the movie American Pie and can be seen dangling from young men, age puberty through mid-twenties, at some point or another.

The idea for the campaign came from two presumably strapping gentlemen in the U.K. who wanted to follow in the success of a social media campaign called “No Makeup Selfie” that so far has raised $13 million dollars for women’s cancer awareness and research.

Selfies, for those blissfully unaware of such things, are photos people take of themselves which are then sent to other people or shared on various social medias. Although normally used to show how much fun a person is having at a particular moment,  the power of selfies can apparently be harnessed in the service of good causes.

The sum of $13 million is a lot of money, especially when the primary means of promotion is through social media. Facebook began the “Makeup” campaign and is where it took off, quickly growing big enough to attract the attention of a number of well-known celebrities. These celebrities were more than happy to have the opportunity to put their faces on as many smartphones, tablets, and computer screens as they could while also raising money.

The popularity and success of the “Makeup” campaign made a backlash inevitable. Many of the same celebrities who donated their makeup-less pictures to the cause quite obviously were wearing makeup, resulting in minor outrage and thousands, if not millions, of facepalms. Others questioned the need for viral, self-aggrandizing stunts when people were more than welcome to just donate money without announcing it to the world. The look-at-me nature of the multitude of photos rubbed many the wrong way.

This is a point well-made to the swinging denizens of the Testicular Cancer Awareness campaign. If people consider “No Makeup Selfie” a bit self-centered, “Cock in a Sock” is an exercise is full-blown narcissism.

As of March 27th, around $5,500 dollars had been collected for the cause; better than a poke in the eye, but nobody seems to care much about the money. It is the pictures, and people have either stood at attention and cheered, delighted at what the internet and Twitter can get people to do, or shaken their heads, wearily appalled, at what the internet and Twitter can get people to do.

It should not, at this late date, surprise anybody what people will do to get reactions out of others, when given the excuse. Looking at the pictures, one would think the only people concerned about raising awareness for Testicular Cancer are frat boys and men who spend so much time at the gym, nobody knows how they keep a job. At least they seem happy to promote the cause, taking a selfie of themselves wearing a sock over their feelings of  humiliation while standing in a bathroom, or out on the porch. If only their selfies could have also mentioned a way to donate some money, that would have been nice too.

Commentary by Andrew Elfenbein
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyelf

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