It’s only been a week and my face is already itchy.
While I’m tempted to grab a razor, every itch is just a reminder of why I’m letting my facial hair grow.
In November, men around the world are enduring itchy faces to bring attention to men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and mental health.
Movember (a clever mash-up of “mustache” and “November”) was started in Australia in 2003 by 30 men as a way to bring the mustache back as a fashion trend.
In Australia, “Mo” is slang for “mustache.”
In one year, the trend quickly grew into a social movement for men’s health. Movember added 450 members and raised over $40 thousand in 2004.
Ten years later, according to movember.com, Movember has over 4 million members in 21 countries, raised over $559 million, and funded more than 770 men’s health projects.
Of course, social media is the real power behind Movember and other campaigns like it.
Earlier this year, you probably saw videos of people dumping cold buckets of ice water on their heads in an effort to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). These YouTube videos brought a lot of laughs and over $100 million to the ALS Association.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was both heralded and panned on social media. But most experts consider it the most successful social media campaign for a health-related cause.
A few weeks ago, I posted the following Facebook status:
“I know nobody will read my status but sometimes, when I'm bored, I get wrapped up in a sleeping bag and lather butter all over myself and slide around the kitchen floor pretending I'm a slug.”
The post is the result of my unknowing participation in a weird social media game. Everyone who liked or commented on my demented post was hit with a message telling them that, just like me, they had lost. To make it right, they had to post the same message on their Facebook page to promote breast cancer awareness month.
I fell for it by liking Vindicator managing editor Mark Sweetwood’s status.
These are just a few examples of how social media can act as a change agent for non-profits, charities, and causes.
For the rest of November, you can grow your mustache (or wear a fake mo), post pictures and videos, start your own team, raise funds for men’s health programs – and share all of your activities via social media.
Or you can wait for the next campaign. If you’re feeling up to it, you might be the launch pad for the next great cause on social media.
November is the only time I can get away without shaving for work, or for my wife (actually, I think she likes it). More importantly, growing a terrible looking ‘stache and posting a few selfies on my movember.com page is an easy way to bring some attention to men’s health issues, even if it means only one man will think about getting a check-up.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.