Raising Awareness vs. Action

The internet has long been an interesting yet inconsistent way of raising awareness of issues. Methods from viral marketing to chain letters have been used, with varying levels of success, to spread the word from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to the latest movies and beyond. One person sends a link via social networking site, which hit anywhere from ten to a thousand people at once, one of whom will most likely repost the message to a new audience. It’s a very organic, grassroots method of getting information to the people.

I encountered one of these viral ‘campaigns’ earlier today via Facebook – I use campaigns in quotes because despite the message calling itself a campaign, the note wasn’t a call-to-arms, it just raised awareness. There were no links sent to statistics, a charity or an event, nor a request to to do an action in our waking lives.

The message was as follows:

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same until Monday December 6, 2010, there should be no human faces on Facebook! This is a campaign for Violence Against Children!

Out of curiosity, I looked at my friends list to see how many had changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters, and at least 15 of them had done so. I would look at these new images on my news feed, trying to link up their names with the comic book character, and it made me realize that this method of campaigning had two major flaws:

  • Many of them changed their profile picture without reposting the message, which only gave me their new cartoon profile but neglected the basic point of the viral message, rendering the campaign invisible.
  • A large percentage of those who changed their profile picture most likely did not turn around and donate time or money to a cause against child violence. This renders the campaign ineffective.

I’m a bit different when it comes to campaigns and charities. I’m always on the lookout for a cause that needs assistance, and I tithe monthly. I saw this viral awareness message going around Facebook and I immediately did some research into applicable charities. Once I found a suitable one, I posted on Facebook, raising awareness while injecting an activity in it – linking to a children’s charity and requesting that those dedicated to the prevention of child violence take some action.

In the end, if everyone who was touched by the message donated either 10 dollars or 10 minutes of their time to a cause, imagine the number of children we could save and protect. It’s that type of action that will save children, a cartoon icon cannot block the blows nor pick up the pieces.

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One Response to Raising Awareness vs. Action

  1. Hrafn says:

    What is also interesting about this particular meme is that there are two of them that involve the same change of profile picture, but one does it for nostalgia.

    So to further weaken the message of the Violence Against Children meme, we have people changing their profile picture in exactly the same way for a different purpose.

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