How I leverage social media to raise testicular cancer awareness.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in males 15-44, according to the American Cancer Society, so I figured a good strategy is to go where they are to spread awareness. Since I've been banned from doing self-exam demonstrations at local gyms and the local mall security guards now know me by sight, social media was the next best option… at least until Zuckerberg kicks me off.
I jumped in and quickly found that raising awareness about testicular cancer through social media is trickier than using social media to promote discussion about education, which is something I was well-versed in from my pre-cancer life. While it's easy to get likes, retweets and comments on a fluff piece about using yoga balls in the classroom, not as many people are willing to share images of man balls — even if they are cartoon images.
To counterbalance this, I decided to focus most of my sharing of pictures of me turning everyday objects in testicular cancer-related props. Men, and people in general, don't want a clinical lecture — they want something funny that they can connect to.
Brussel sprouts were transformed into tools to demonstrate a self-exam. A “shelfie” with a line Andy Weir's Artemis ("Alright, Lefty, let's see how well connected you really are") became a way to reflect on my orchiectomy. Screenshots of my sister telling me not to wear my Fitbit in the shower since it doesn't measure "ball checking speed" served as a reminder to do a self-exam in the shower. A bag of peanuts that were marked as half-off… you get the idea.
These pictures usually get an adequate amount of traffic, but what gets even more engagement are pictures of me being "inspirational." A series of photos showing me from bald and bloated to fit with a faux hawk is the picture that has the most engagement over the past year — a year that's seen me speak to a group of nearly 250 college students at a world record attempt for the largest simultaneous testicular self-exam, conduct research about testicular exams at the doctor's office, write and produce a health education video about testicular cancer, and more.
This isn't to say that I don't appreciate the kindness of strangers; I definitely like attention and traffic on my page and social media accounts. But I do not do this work to earn fame for me and I certainly don't feel like an inspiration.
I want the attention focused on the testicular cancer awareness work I do. It's often frustrating to see these "inspirational" pictures trend better than real, cancer awareness raising efforts.
Nonetheless, I am committed to forging on. I'll keep at it, as I randomly find objects that are testicular related in everyday life. (Oh, look at this lone wiffle ball a neighbor's kid hit into my yard.) If my pictures and posts, whether they are ball related or inspirational, prompts one man to do one self-exam… then that makes an impact.