Most selfies on the internet tend to serve little to no real purpose. But in Mallory Lubbock‘s case, they might actually save lives.
The 26-year-old from Iowa took to Facebook to share a series of images she took of her face that show her recent experience dealing with a cancer scare.
Throughout the post, she chronicles her terrifying journey, explaining that it began in a tanning bed and resulted with a life sentence of routine checkups and likely more discoveries of skin cancer.
The pictures may seem somewhat graphic, but Lubbock tells Yahoo Lifestyle that that’s the point.
“I wanted to bring awareness to not only what can happen when you’re out in the sun without sunscreen but also in a tanning bed,” Lubbock says. “I went every single day for two years, and almost every day for four. I’m so young and will now deal with this the rest of my life!”
Blaming her 16-year-old self for making the poor choice to tan, the mother of two now realizes how impactful those decisions have become, although she previously believed that this would never happen to her.
“I remember seeing skin cancer posts on Facebook and thinking, Oh, that’ll never happen to me,” Lubbock admits seeing photos likely comparable to the one that went viral in 2015.
The photo posted by Tawny Willoughby (who now goes by the last name Dzierzek) was of a similar nature, where the then 27-year-old shared a raw photo of her own scars that she also attributed to tanning.
The post, since being shared about three years ago, has received more than 100,000 shares and 9,000 reactions, which inspired a study about a selfie’s likelihood to influence important conversations.
Lead author of the study Seth M. Noar, PhD, provides a viable comparison of the two photos, ensuring that Lubbock’s is just as important a story that has the potential to gain power through more widespread attention.
“In the case of Willoughby, her story went viral — it was shared roughly 50,000 times before the media picked it up,” Noar tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“The national media broadcasts then exposed a national audience to the story, some of whom may have also then searched for it on social media.
In [Lubbock’s] case, it is currently unclear how widely this has been shared or broadcast, or in what ways beyond Facebook.
In any case, the potential is clearly there for another story of this kind to get major attention and engage the public on the topic of tanning beds and skin cancer.”
Just around the time of Willoughby’s share in 2015, Noar and his colleagues saw “near-record levels” of online searches for information about skin cancer.
And although he believes Lubbock’s photo could have the same potential, Lubbock herself just hopes that it reaches enough young girls to steer them away from tanning beds.
“I so hope it keeps a 16-year-old from getting in a tanning bed because my facial wound is so frightening,” Lubbock says. “Or I hope it reaches a mom whose daughter tans daily so she can show her my images and maybe she will realize this is what can happen.”
As for her own children, one of whom is a little girl, Lubbock will undoubtedly tell her daughter about this horrific experience once she gets older.
“I hope to God my own daughter doesn’t get into [a tanning bed]. And I will do everything in my power to make sure she hopefully doesn’t.”
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