1. If you’re an athlete, post a picture on Instagram of your “game hair.”

2. Challenge three friends who also play a sport in your caption.

3. Put the fundraising link in your bio.

4. Sign up either individually or as a team on the HEADstrong website for the chance to win a prize.

Those are the official steps for the HEADstrong Foundation’s latest Instagram challenge: “Game Hair Havoc.”

The HEADstrong Foundation was founded by Nicholas Colleluori, a high school and college athlete who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and died in 2006. According to the organization’s website, Nick’s vision for the foundation was to “raise awareness and funds for cancer by empowering athletes to support his mission.” This mission has continued to be carried out since his passing. A year ago, when former Division-I lacrosse player Stephanie Finley was diagnosed with cancer, her family teamed up with the HEADstrong Foundation and initiated the Instagram challenge to help raise awareness and money for families affected by cancer.

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Over the past year, lacrosse star and former @jmulacrosse All-American attacker @stephyfin has been in the fight of her life against cancer. In March 2018, after experiencing symptoms, Finley was diagnosed with Chordoma, an extremely rare cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine. Since her diagnosis, Finley has undergone multiple surgeries and procedures to minimize her tumors and now she is fighting back by joining forces with the HEADstrong Foundation to ignite the philanthropic spirit of women’s game in an effort to help families overcome by cancer. Together, Finley and HEADstrong have created an amazing way to strengthen their commitment to families from across the country through hair braiding and styling on the field: #GameHairHavoc. Head to ILWomen for more information and how to #GetStylin today. (📸: @headstrongfnd)

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The HEADstrong Foundation’s six-week challenge, which ends March 31, has gained a large presence on Instagram since its start on February 17.

Weinberg freshman Sophia Scanlan said she began to notice the challenge was trending while viewing the Instagram stories of people she knew from high school.

Scanlan’s cousin, who plays soccer, nominated her for the challenge.

“I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do or anything, so I Googled the HEADstrong [Foundation] and I realized what it was about,” Scanlan said.

Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral a few years ago, Scanlan thinks this challenge has shown a positive and effective effort in raising awareness for its specific cause, stating that “almost everybody” she knows from high school has posted about it.

However, it seems that as the challenge has turned trend, not only its official rules, but also the cause behind it, have gotten somewhat buried in the hype.

“I think perhaps it might be spreading kind of shallow awareness,” Scanlan said.

Shaun Lim, a SESP sophomore and member of Northwestern’s diving team, was nominated for the challenge by her sister, who is also a diver. Like Scanlan, Lim first heard of the challenge after seeing it on many Instagram stories.

She agrees with Scanlan’s view that this challenge has been effective in raising awareness for its cause, but “it could lead to a lot of ‘slacktivism.’”

“It’s kinda just like, ‘Oh, I’m going to post this because it makes me feel good. Like I actually did something without actually doing something’,” Lim said.

Lim explained that she thinks challenges such as these often trend due to “mob mentality” – because it’s something one’s friends and others are doing – rather than for the cause behind it.

“I don’t know what to feel about it, because it’s nice that there’s awareness being passed around,” she said. “But I feel like no one’s actually doing anything.”

Alex Hoffman, a Medill freshman on the Northwestern cheerleading team, said that in high school, she was very involved in raising awareness and money for cancer through organizations such as Make A Wish. Her brother nominated her for the challenge.

“My brother told me a little bit about it because I was confused, but I just kind of went along with it,” she said.

Hoffman thinks that social media challenges such as this one could be “very powerful” in raising awareness, but not necessarily funds, for cancer.

“I think that the message is really good, and I really appreciate what they’re doing. And I can see it helping raise awareness,” she said. “But money, I’m not really sure, because I don’t really know where the money would go or how it’d be donated.”

While Scanlan agrees that she doesn’t know just how effective the challenge has been in terms of the amount of money raised for cancer, she is still “sure they’ve raised a lot of money, because if you have this awareness going around and you know that so many people are posting, odds are more people are going to donate just ’cause they know about it.”

However, she also raises the point that the main demographic for this challenge is young people – and “that’s not the richest demographic in the world.”

Overall, all three women – none of who ended up donating – realize both the positive and negative effects that social media can have on society.

“I think that we should all be thankful that we have a new method of communication and ways of spreading knowledge and stuff,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think I would have ever learned about this organization or a lot of other organizations if I didn’t have social media.”

But like Lim, Hoffman fears that social media and these types of challenges are turning their causes into bandwagon trends, rather than inciting further education and action on the issues.

“I think social media definitely is effective in raising awareness for causes like this,” Scanlan said. “Again, maybe not the deepest awareness, but it’s better to have some awareness than no awareness.”

At the time of this article, the HEADstrong Foundation has raised a little over half of its $275,000 goal through “Game Hair Havoc.”

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#getstylin ladies! Sign up today and be entered to win a brand new @lululemon tote bag! *link in bio*

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