Selfie-obsessed or a clever way to raise charity funds?

Have your say

Is posting so-called “selfies” on Facebook and Twitter just an act of self-promotion or can it be a force for good? Nel Staveley reports.

SO, the make-up was off and one of the biggest charity fundraising campaigns social media has ever seen began.

In case you missed it, here’s a brief summary: women (and some men) wipe off their mascara and foundation, take a photo of themselves, then post it on Facebook or Twitter, with a natty #nomakeupselfie beside it. The idea is that they then also donate £3 to Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and nominate a few friends to do the same.

For anyone languishing in their last-minute London Marathon preparations, or who’s ever climbed mountains, cycled through jungles, or abseiled skyscrapers, it might seem like a slightly easy way of ‘doing your bit’ for charity.

For many people, it also jars with the idea that women not wearing make-up is in any way “brave”, out of the ordinary or remotely noteworthy, and that a campaign about cancer, and the horrors it can ravage on a person’s body, should be represented in a stream of photos focused on someone’s appearance.

And yet, there is no denying the campaign’s surging success; in just six days, a number nudging three million had posted their “natural” snaps and over £8 million had been raised.

It’s an incredible figure and a welcome boost for the worthy causes that benefitted and a boost, too, for those who say social media isn’t inherently narcissistic, which it’s often dismissed as.

Social networking sites have become powerful global brands and now provide a constant source of information about what’s happening in the world. But are they normally seen as a force for bringing people together to do something amazing and thinking beyond themselves and their self-promotion? Probably not.

However, the #nomakeupselfie campaign has proved that social media is not only about the individual, it’s about the individual uniting with other individuals to find a common voice.

Ali Brice, social media editor at leading UK charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, says the campaign should be applauded. “It is a great example of how an essentially indulgent activity - in this case taking a picture of yourself - can be translated into something brilliant that raises awareness, and more importantly, raises funds for vital causes.

“The best and worst aspects of social media – that it gets people talking about themselves, but also to each other – make it such a powerful tool, and one that can be used to foster a real sense of community. When just the right measures of certain elements are thrown in – a call to action, a cause, and a simple mechanism to take part – social media can force a real change in the world.”

Javier Buron, founder and chief executive of Twitter management platform SocialBro, agrees. “Social media helps communities to extend their boundaries and spread their message. Most of us now learn about causes through social media, but more importantly, we are all far more likely to get involved and support causes that are close to the hearts and lives of our friends and families.

“It’s a lot harder to say no to a friend than an ad campaign, no matter how much it pulls at your heartstrings.

“Charities who use social media well are also making it easy for people to be involved. With so many of us struggling to balance work, family and social commitments, it can be difficult to find the time to get involved with our communities, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to,” he says.

“Very few people have the time and fitness level to run a marathon for Cancer Research UK, for example, but the selfie campaign shows there’s a huge pool of women who are prepared to support the charity through a social media initiative.”