Breast cancer awareness goes viral on Facebook . . . with bra color updates

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 9, 2010

The world awoke Friday to discover that Davi's bra is black. Janet's is blue with bows. Kim's is pink. And Susan's is a "decadent beige."

Throughout the day, on Facebook pages across the globe, hundreds of thousands of women were freely, willingly, even gleefully sharing the color of the bras they were wearing -- without really knowing exactly why they were doing so.

"Robin's egg blue," wrote Jan Schorfhaar.

"Beige with slight lace," wrote Melissa Castino Reid.

"Black!" wrote Naomi Bebo.

Purple. Polka dot. Grimy white. And even as the bra colors went viral -- wildly so -- cyber-arguments erupted about what it all meant. Was so openly and brazenly posting something as intimate as one's bra color an attempt to raise breast cancer awareness? Or was it all just another Facebook time-suck, another "send your friend a snowball" novelty? A meme?

It was no game to the people at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, who were stunned to find themselves the beneficiaries of a Web phenomenon they didn't begin to understand. At the start of Friday, they had exactly 135 fans on their Facebook page. By 5:30 in the evening, they had 135,000.

"It would be nice to claim credit for this, but we really have done nothing," said John Hammarley, spokesman for the foundation, who was at first speechless trying to describe the magnitude of that jump in interest. Indeed, the foundation had spent the past two years trying to connect with an audience through social media and not making much progress, even after hiring two staffers dedicated solely to developing ties on sites such as Facebook. "We have honestly just sat back and watched a classic example of a viral phenomenon unfold from sunrise to almost sunset."

Hammarley said the foundation got an uptick in donations as well, but they haven't yet sorted out how much they can attribute to the bra color craze. "We really don't care what color you're wearing," he said. "But we will seize the moment."

The American Cancer Society, likewise, saw a bump in interest about breast cancer, but was slightly more defensive about the bra color postings. "We are not behind it," said spokesperson Andrew Becker. "And the reason I say that up front is that there was a news outlet in India that was saying we had something to do with it."


Although tech people at the Komen Foundation spent most of the day Friday trying to trace the bra color phenomenon to its source, they had no luck. They have no idea who started it. Or when. Or, really, why.

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