If you are on Facebook and pay any attention, then you have likely seen more than half your friends animate themselves with '70s and '80s cartoon characters this weekend in their profile photo.
Strawberry Shortcake, the Snorks, Gummy Bears, Rainbow Brite, and all your favorite old school cartoons are invading your friends' profiles to highlight what is allegedly a good cause: the prevention of child abuse.
One might ask themselves how these memes work. Remember the one about where you left your purse? "Sarah Smith likes it in the foyer near the coat tree"? That was the one that raised awareness of breast cancer.
According to Malcom Gladwell, a writer at The New Yorker, they don't.
Do you donate your status to gay rights? Turn your photos red for AIDS awareness and post a pink ribbon on your Facebook page to help women with breast cancer?
According to Gladwell, you might be better off doing nothing at all.
Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.
And here we see evidence of that. How does putting up a photo of Jessica Rabbit, especially when it isn't tied to any one big mobilizing event or letter writing campaign or even real "thing" at all, really change anything?
It doesn't, of course. But it does raise awareness on some level. I mean, we are sitting here talking (in a roundabout way) about child abuse, right?
But how much strength does it really take to come out against child abuse? I mean, come on now. Does anyone support child abuse? Even the abusers themselves would probably say they don't. But actually making a difference in the fight, donating time or money, isn't nearly as easy as changing your profile photo.
Some people are abstaining on principle because they can see how little difference it makes and their point is well taken. How many petitions get passed around Facebook or outraged status updates get "liked" that actually do nothing in terms of really moving forward?
We all get to feel great because we donated our status to this cause or that. We "raised awareness." But unless we are getting off our duffs and actually doing something, then it means very little.
Did you change your photo? Do you think it makes a difference?
Image via Facebook