I’m aware that I should be aware. Is that enough?

As a working mother, my immediate awareness extends to what meetings I have today, the resolution to the latest office crises, the next presentation I have to make, whether my husband or I are meeting the babysitter, and whether my toddler is testing the theory that he can indeed fly by hurling himself off the couch and belly-flopping onto the living room carpet. As a news junkie and presumed social marketing expert, I have an endless stream of mobile alerts, quick-summarizing web aggregators, and news scrolls that serve to keep me relatively well informed of what’s going on in the world. Or so I thought, until I discovered just what an important month July is.

July, best known in the U.S. for Independence Day, also is Billy Mays Memorial Month, Lasagna Awareness Month (if only I’d known, I could have justified an increase in Lasagna consumption), National Baked Beans Month (I am a conscientious objector to beans), National Blueberries Month, National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month (NCCAPM), National Ice Cream Month (this one I can get behind wholeheartedly), National Culinary Arts Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Picnic Month, National Pickle Month, National Vehicle Theft Protection Month, National Banana Month, National Tickling Month (really?), National Hat Month, National Awareness Month, and Recreation and Parks Month. And that doesn’t even cover the specific dates in July such as Doctor’s Day, International Day of Cooperatives, Writer’s Day, World Population Day, Mandela Day, Disability (ADA) Awareness Day, Orgasm Day, and System Administrator Appreciation Day (I know some systems administrators, and they must hate me now for forgetting their special day – I hereby officially apologize to them, please don’t turn my account off!).

As a health professional, I actually take some measure of interest in the fact that July is also Cord Blood Awareness Month, International Group B Strep Awareness Month, Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and UV Safety Month, but ultimately my question is, how much can a person be expected to be aware of? And what am I supposed to do on any given day. Does one wear hats during National Hat Month? Should I be patronizing more local parks during Recreation and Parks Month? And why can’t National Hot Dog Month, National Pickle Month, National Ice Cream Month and National Recreation and Parks Month be merged with National Picnic Month?

Social Media have enabled us to spread our messages far and wide about our particular areas of interest, and this is often seen as a boon to non-profits, who can now reach a much wider audience much more quickly, once the exclusive domain of corporations that could afford the exorbitantly priced services of Madison Avenue advertising executives. Product marketers rejoice in now being able to profit from the “long tail” of consumers, that is populations with very specific interests that are ill-served by brick-and-mortar businesses. In social marketing i.e. attempting to positively change behavior through media, the impact is far less clear. If you market an exclusive widget that is purchased at high price by very few people, and now those people can order directly from your website, and receive future offers via email, success is measured by increased revenue vs. the cost to run up a functional website. How does one measure the success of a social marketing campaign, particularly when awareness must be divided between so many different issues and causes?

We have saturated the calendar with “Awareness Days” to the extent that it is very hard to be aware of anything at all. Does awareness truly get raised by declaring a day or month as dedicated to it? Do we have any reason to suspect that those who are not already aware of the issue are suddenly drawn into the socially conscious fold, particularly when there are more pleasant awareness month focuses to choose from. National Hot Dog Month sounds far more enjoyable than National Vehicle Theft protection month. If we have to dedicate our already hopelessly overwhelmed human brains to maintaining a particularly high level of attention, I think hot dogs will always win.

Can’t we just say that everyday you should be aware of your surroundings, caloric intake, sexual health along with using a variety of clothes and products while using common sense and be done with it?  Are we-moving towards information saturation?  When we make everything equally important, we make everything equally unimportant.

Oh, and by the way, did you know that October 15 is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) and Global Handwashing Day? In all seriousness, please do commemorate NLAAD as we work towards an AIDS-Free Generation (shameless promotion of my cause!)

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