Monday, December 6, 2010

Slactivism At Its Finest

Today marks the culmination of a Facebook campaign asking users to change their profile picture to a photo of a favorite childhood cartoon to raise awareness of child abuse. The campaign doesn't seem to have originated with any official organization, although it appears to have caught on. Maybe you've seen it. Here's what the status messages say:

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on Facebook until Monday, December 6. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy & paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same.

In an act of unapologetic cynicism, I changed my profile picture to one of Homer Simpson strangling Bart. As of this writing, I'm down 3 friends.

I think that the vast majority of people who are changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters are just doing so for fun, but a sizable minority actually think that they're accomplishing something. This campaign is little more than a blatant act of armchair activism that has enough people convinced that they've done something when they actually haven't done anything at all.

It is indeed a very sad thing that, at this very moment, children all over the world are being abused. However, I guarantee you that those children don't care what your favorite cartoon character is or that your changed your Facebook profile picture. But, that's not the point, right? The goal of this campaign is to raise "awareness" about child abuse. Are there people out there who aren't aware of child abuse? And what exactly is "awareness" anyway? How is it measured? How do you know when you've become more aware?

It will no doubt be argued that enough of discussion about the issue has been raised and enough people have been motivated to do a little research into child abuse and enough people have been somehow inspired to donate that the campaign served its purpose. After all, any forward movement is progress, right? I have to wonder, however if this campaign is doing more harm than good. Yes, some of the folks may be inspired, in a roundabout way, to donate to a related charity. However, I'm wondering if a greater majority of people will have felt that they have accomplished something simply by changing their profile picture and then will not be inclined to donate. Whereas, had they been approached by more traditional means, they'd have been more inclined to donate.

In the end, all of the evidence on both sides is anecdotal and this is just Facebook we're talking about anyway, so little of this really matters. Personally, it took me about two days to figure out why He-Man was going out partying Friday night, why Smurfette was home with a bad cold, why Scooby-Doo was reading "Shit My Dad Says" and why Rainbow Bright was going out to shake her bootie with her ladies.

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