Wondering why your Facebook feed is suddenly covered in little heart emojis? Unless you have a number of extra-affectionate friends, it likely has something to do breast cancer awareness.
This isn't the first time we've seen this trend. It's actually resurfaced a few times over the years, but generally during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The concept is as follows: Post a heart on your female friends' Facebook walls, then send a private message explaining that the heart is a subtle reminder to get their breasts checked for lumps. Then, the goal is to cause a ripple effect—your friends posts hearts on their friends' walls, their friends posts on other friends' walls, and so on. They're also supposed to post the heart on the same woman who sent them the message. But, the catch is, if any guys ask what the emojis are all about, the recipient is supposed to stay silent, since the game is meant only for women.
The trend has been stirring up some controversy. Critics on social media find the whole concept offensive, concerned it’s turning breast cancer into a game. Others say the cryptic message is too opaque to do any good, and argue it's counterproductive to try spreading awareness about a condition by staying silent. Rather than use this subtle tactic, some suggest it would be more effective to post something more direct, like a simple "Check your breasts."
Whether you’re a lover or hater of this attempt at breast cancer prevention, the takeaway is still important: check your breasts. You don’t need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure you’re in the clear. In fact, most doctors say what’s even more important than a formal exam is getting to know your own breasts on a regular basis: "That means becoming familiar with the normal feel of your breasts," Holly J. Pederson, MD told Health in a previous interview. This practice can be as simple as regularly massaging your breasts in the shower, she explained. And if you notice something irregular, try not to panic, and instead follow these tips for what to do if you find a lump.