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Raising Alzheimer's awareness through Facebook confusion

A recent campaign to increase awareness of the most common form of dementia put people in photos of fake events, possibly giving them a momentary sense of what the disease might feel like.

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Imagine spotting a photo of yourself at an event you never attended. Baffling, right?

That's what happened to some Facebook users recently when they saw tagged pictures pop up on their timelines showing them at functions they were sure they never went to. Next to the photo, they'd see a message: "Confusing right? You're now experiencing what it's like to have Alzheimer's disease."

The photos were part of The Alzheimer's Event, an Alzheimer's awareness campaign by Alzheimer Nederlands aimed at getting younger, social-media-savvy audiences more engaged in the fight against dementia through knowledge and financial contributions.

"In this very contemporary way people get to experience for themselves the confusion that Alzheimer's patients face on a daily basis, and thus the impact that Alzheimer's has," the organization said.

The education and advocacy group worked with a team of image specialists, who edited pictures of unsuspecting people into photo albums of fake events. Actual organizations such as an Amsterdam film festival contributed to the realism by posting images of the made-up happenings on their own Facebook pages.

Alzheimer Nederlands kicked off the campaign with images of celebrities and other public personalities. The group then encouraged people to visit a site for the project that let anyone contribute to the effort by uploading photos of friends, placing them in pictures of false events, and then tagging them. According to Alzheimer Nederlands, a "massive amount" of images were uploaded, though it didn't specify how many.

While the campaign may have caused momentary confusion for Facebook users, those with Alzheimer's, a progressive form of dementia, often regularly suffer memory loss and lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. And while the occasional tagged Facebook user might have been put off by the tactic, most seemed to greatly value the importance of the cause and originality of the effort.

"As someone with family members who suffered from Alzheimer's, I greatly appreciate this," a commenter named Esteban Contreras wrote in response to Alzheimer Nederland's Vimeo upload. "As someone who lives at the intersection of marketing and technology, I also find the campaign unique, creative, and effective. Nicely done."

(Via Mashable)