Why #FeelingNuts Will Never Rival the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Hugh Jackman FeelingNuts Twitter

Courtesy of Hugh Jackman’s Twitter

Were I to describe the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a single word, I would choose “inescapable.” For several weeks this past summer, you couldn’t hit Facebook without scrolling through video after video of your friends raising awareness for ALS (and making use of Facebook’s relatively new video-friendly platform to boot).

There are successful social media strategies and then there’s going viral. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the interwebs by storm because it flawlessly blended narcissistic millennial tendencies and the pretext of difficulty by making it socially acceptable (lauded, even) to strip down and douse yourself with freezing water. Enter the most recent attempt to repeat this roaring success: #FeelingNuts, a campaign that calls men to photograph themselves grabbing…themselves and using the hashtag to raise awareness for testicular cancer. However, one way that the #FeelingNuts phenomenon differs from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in that it doesn’t capture that same feeling of challenging yourself – all that’s required is an internet connection and pair of testicles.

Which leads to the true reason #FeelingNuts is unlikely to dominate the social media landscape: it excludes women. And that, my friend, is a catastrophic mistake.

According to Pew Research Center, the average proportion of women who used social media sites between May 2008 and May 2013 was 8 percentage points higher than men. Moreover, among internet users (and golly, who isn’t one?), 72% of women engage with Facebook, in comparison to 62% of women.

By itself, this data isn’t particularly convincing – the margins are relatively small, even if they are statistically significant. But things start to get really interesting when you factor in gendered differences in social awareness and practice.

First, women tend to cultivate their sense of self by taking into account the influence of others around them (also known as an “interdependent construal of self”), indicating that women’s identities to some extent depend on how we relate to others.* The phrase “To some extent” is critical because everyone, men and women alike, fall on a spectrum of interdependence. But again, men and women diverge. Whereas women are more relationally oriented, men place a greater emphasis on group memberships and large collectives, finding themselves through greater communities (sports teams, clubs, etc.) rather than person-to-person.** Finally, when compared with women, men prefer discussing less personal topics, like sports and politics, to relationships.***

At this point, you would probably chew your own arm off if it meant I would stop citing (fascinating) psychological studies, so let’s bring it home: I hypothesize that #FeelingNuts won’t remotely approach the level of success the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enjoyed because it excludes women, a population whose identity hinges on social interaction, who transcend group barriers, and don’t actively dislike discussing themselves.

What do you think – do you agree?

*Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992; Brewer & Gardner, 1996; Markus & Kitayama, 1991
**Baumeister & Sommer, 1997
***Aries & Johnson, 1983