Pooh Bear: the cure to cancer

Instagram challenges are not the solution to national issues


Sydney Kinzy

An Instagram post for the childhood cancer awareness challenge.

Oh, Instagram challenges: the thing that has taught me that what appears to be good cause is just another hat we put on to make ourselves look benevolent on the Internet.

For the lucky ones who have somehow managed to stay off social media, Instagram is full of challenges to support one cause or another. It begins with a picture and a caption describing the challenge, and anyone who likes that image must complete the challenge. Usually, this means you must post a similar image and challenge anyone who likes your image, continuing the chain of the challenge until people begin to say “that challenge was so yesterday.”

Back in November, people posted various Disney characters on their Instagrams with the same caption: “I intend to populate Instagram with children’s characters for Child Cancer Awareness Week. Give me a like and I’ll assign you a character [to post on your Instagram].” Not only did this trend start two months after Childhood Cancer Awareness Month—as there is no week for the causebut there is no need to the awareness. People are already aware that childhood cancer exists.

Posting pictures of Pooh Bear cannot possibly be the solution to childhood cancer.

Sure, you can show that you support people who have cancer, but that does nothing if you have nobody you personally know with cancer following your Instagram. Even then, wouldn’t you post pictures with you and your loved one with cancer instead of a character? These Instagram challenges are turning actual problems into a contest of putting on the nicest face online. Posting pictures of Pooh Bear cannot possibly be the solution to childhood cancer.

There might not be a cure to cancer yet, but there are much more impactful things that a high schooler can do than perfecting their Instagram page. In fact, there are numerous local charities that need fundraising and plenty of hospitals needing volunteers.

Don’t get me wrong: some challenges, like the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge, spread valuable information about an uncommon disease. However, the issue is that people became so obsessed with the fun of the challenge that the whole idea of donating to the ALS Association (ALSA) got overlooked by many participants (the challenge’s losers donated $50 to ALSA). And now that the trend of the ice bucket challenge is over, the ALS Association has fallen back into the shadows.

Similarly, the “Stay Alive Challenge” has spread across Instagram, which users post a black and white photo to show support for suicidal individuals, including the caption “Challenge Accepted: #stayalive.”

Sydney Kinzy
For those who want to post the suicide hotline on Instagram, I created this image for you.

“DMing [people] to spread this empty meaning hashtag with a black and white photo doesn’t help,” an anonymous student, who has contemplated suicide in the past, said in a private Instagram post. “What will help is to post a picture and put the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number in your bio. A phone call saved my life and gave me so much help over the past year.”

This should not a contest of the most glamorous post that can be made on a social media page. Posting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number does not look as cute as the black and white picture of a kitten or as funny as watching friends squirm under buckets of ice water.

These challenges are simply masks put on to look favorable in the eyes of their followers, who in turn want to be seen just as charming and sweet. But in reality, these challenges do virtually nothing for society compared to all the great opportunities already available to help people in the real world, not somewhere in cyberspace when it is only trendy  to do so.

Being a supporter is not about glamour. It is about being there for people even when the challenge dies. Because life and death is not just a game to play on Instagram.



Donate to Friends of Kids with Cancer here to help families in St. Louis struggling with the costs with childhood cancer.

Learn about volunteering at St. Louis Children’s Hospital here.

Donate to the ALS Association here to fund research for a cure to ALS.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number offers 24/7 services at 1-800-273-8255 and on the online chat found on their website.