I’ve been seeing a lot of backlash the past couple of days over the recent changing of Facebook profile pictures to cartoon characters and I don’t think it’s fair.
No, I don’t believe that changing your picture can really do anything to stop child abuse; but, I don’t think a red “twibbon” on my Twitter picture will have any real impact on AIDS research either. No one seems to be giving people with red ribbons this hard of a time, though. And, I didn’t hear the same outcry when people turned their Facebook profile photos pink in October.
Changing your profile picture has always been a fun thing to do in social networks (anyone else out there remember “Stripper Fridays” on Twitter?). And quite often, it’s been related to a cause, as well. Who can forget all the green pea pictures for the Frozen Pea Fund? (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself a Twitter n00b) Just last year people were turning both Facebook and Twitter pictures green for Iran protesters.
That’s not to say there weren’t critics of this activity back then. There were. But, criticism this time around seems particularly nasty. And some friends on Facebook have had harsh things to say about the trend, too. Soon followed by all the friends posting the false rumor that doing this actually supports pedophiles. (a more believable rumor would be that the studios with Smurf and Yogi Bear movies started it all to promote interest in their films)
I changed mine for a while this past weekend – again, not because I expected I could end child abuse, but rather because it seemed a fun thing to do. I changed it back after reading someone’s status update that made me aware that those who suffered child abuse could find that sort of “slactivism” offensive.
So what was it that went wrong with this meme?
Were cartoon characters too silly for a serious cause? Probably.
Is it the lack of a clear picture of who started it? Could be.
Was it just too popular? Googling “change Facebook picture” brings pages of links about specifically changing it to a cartoon. The more the hype, the more the backlash sometimes.
Could it be a matter of social overload, or is changing your profile picture just a fad past its prime? (who out there tags people with blog memes any more?)
Or has social media simply lost its sense of humor? In our rush to bring it into the mainstream and leverage it for marketing or ecommerce have we lost the original spirit of it all?
Not at the grassroots level. Indications are that the whole thing did start simply as fun – not to support any cause, or for any untoward intents. It simply seems to have been twice hijacked, along with many people’s patience for the unorganized, unkempt use of social media.
Image courtesy Creative Commons from Leonard John Matthews