Can One Facebook Avatar Change The World?

6 December 2010

NSPCC Campaign

I have a confession to make: when Facebook tells me to change my avatar or update my status, it actually annoys me. I didn't type the colour of my bra, and I didn't update where I like to keep my purse. And, no, this week, I didn't update my avatar to show my favourite cartoon from childhood.

It's not that I think breast cancer is a joke, nor do I condone violence against children – and I can't even remember what the purse one was in aid of – but I just don't see the point.

A heated conversation on Twitter yesterday really got me thinking. There were those who argued that it was valuable: it raised awareness of the NSPCC and the work that they are doing. Then there were those that argued that it was completely useless and does nothing for suffering children.

I tend to agree – awareness without action is futile. If each person who changed their avatar also donated just £1.00, or supported the actual NSPCC campaign – a letter from Santa - then perhaps something useful could come from it.

On the other hand, perhaps now people are thinking about charities, and actual awareness has been raised and while we're going round doing our joyous thing this festive season, some of us might actually spare a thought – and a pound - to children who are living in poverty or abusive situations. Perhaps this campaign has raised awareness, and as a result every day people might think to actually donate £10.00 or so.

But on the flip side, the danger is that a vast amount of people will sit back and think, “Ok, I've changed my avatar, I've done my part. Let's move on.” While choosing not to support this, or any, charity is a personal choice, based on experience, circumstances and simply wanting to or not, doing essentially nothing and feeling good about it, well – that just feels a bit wrong to me.

I think for me the answer lies in how much awareness has been raised and what the outcome of that is. The NSPCC have stated that they weren't behind this campaign, but are grateful for the focus on their work. But if it's just a laugh and a bit of fun, then call it that.

What do you think? Good use of social media, good use if it pays off, or a harmless bit of useless fun?

Oh, and since you ask: black, on the table, and Top Cat.

TOPICS:   News and Recalls

19 comments

  • Martin
    I think it's a complete and utter joke. A way for people to pretend to be supporting a worthy cause without actually contributing which in some way gives a false sense of personal satisfaction. I'm sure the actual charities will be thinking 'yeah great but what has this actually put into our funds?'. Why not just give some cash in the first place and genuinely contribute.
  • Gunn
    I don't know normally follow these fad things but when someone brings up children etc you feel like you should get involved. I agree about the donating part. Regardless if it does any good I can't see it doing any harm.
  • Matt
    its basically the 21st Century equivalent of a chain letter. We have had them in emails before when you pass it on and Microsoft will pay x amount to charity etc. Its nothing new, just new people falling for it.
  • Lynley O.
    It is just a bit of fun! I had a right laugh with my friends about the bra and the handbag. I didn't join in with the cartoon one, but it was a lot of fun to see what cartoon characters friends came up with, and talk about shows from the past. Along the way it put the NSPCC in my mind and reminded me that at even though I might be feeling the pinch of the recession (and then some) that's still no reason not to make a charitable donation alongside buying presents. Two things to keep in mind. Firstly, the NSPCC had no idea that this was happening, and were not involved in organising it. Someone just started and it went viral. How cool is that? Second, there's also a hoax going around that this was in fact started by paedophiles in a bid to in some way lure in victims with the use of cartoons. Goodness knows how or why that would work, but lots of otherwise sane people are passing that one around without checking it. If you go to any reputable hoax site like Snopes you'll find that it is not true. This is not a modern take on a chain letter as there's no threat involved. I ignore all those 'will you post most won't' updates for this reason. And ditto those endless 'you'll get love and happiness if you pass this on to your contact book' type messages that seem to endlessly drop into my inbox too.
  • Luschka O.
    "A way for people to pretend to be supporting a worthy cause without actually contributing which in some way gives a false sense of personal satisfaction." My cynical side thinks you're spot on! That's why I like the justgiving page someone has set up so people who've changed their avatars can also donate. I haven't updated my avatar, but have donated anyway.
  • Luschka O.
    Well, it has us talking, at least, which as you say, has does no harm.
  • Luschka O.
    Thanks Lynley. I have no issue with it being fun, but then why not just say 'hey, lets all change our avatars for a laugh' rather than for a cause? I agree though - it went viral and now the NSPCC is in a lot more minds than it would have been. I know I'd not have donated anything to the NSPCC this month if all this hadn't happened. As to the hoax - there's always someone that has to rain on the parade. Yes, I guess its possible that it could have been started by paedos, but we could say that about loads of thing - including our local toys shop - so the responsibility still lies with parents to know what their children are doing online! (And isn't the lower age limit on FB 12?)
  • Lynley O.
    >>then why not just say ‘hey, lets all change our avatars for a laugh’ rather than for a cause? But if they'd done that and it had gone all around the world as this had done, wouldn't you then be saying 'but why not have done this for a cause instead of just a laugh, at least then you'd have all these millions of people having fun and for a good cause at the same time. It wouldn't hurt to add something in so it isn't just pointless'. Are you objecting to this because of the pointless jumping on the bandwagon all because 'it's for chariddy' aspect? Is that what really bothers you? For me, people having a bit of fun never bothers me and lots of people have enjoyed this one. Plus out of the millions that have done it, a fair percentage will never have heard of the NSPCC. Now they have. And all without that hideous 'most won't bother' blackmail appendage with the implication that if you don't repost it everyone will know YOU DON'T CARE. Ugh. I never repost those unless I think they're really relevant to me, and when I do I cut that bit off.
  • Luschka O.
    No, neither do I. I am not a fan of emotional blackmail, it totally annoys me and normally has me delete it. In honesty, what bothers me is being told what to do :p Change your status, change your avatar, lets all be sheep, baa baa baa :p I support charity - we have Shelter, St.Mungos, and an orphanage in India on our monthly direct debit list, so, no, I'm all for charity, but as I said in the post, what I'm NOT for, is people changing their avatars and thinking they've DONE something, because to quote me, Awareness without action is futile. Fun is fun and that's great, and people should have more of it, but if you really want to feel that you've DONE something, DO something.
  • Jerec
    I did wonder why when I saw all those crud cartoon pictures. Thanks for clearing that up.
  • Lynley O.
    how do you know they don't do something too? :)
  • Vicki
    Can I just point out that anything that makes the news gets noticed, and this has most certainly got NSPCC noticed, whereas otherwise, this week, they would have had to spend money on their own advertising and awareness campaigns (which probably wouldn't have got so much attention - how many times honestly, have you seen their adverts and not thought much more about it once your programme restarts?)- Hasn't done any harm, and may have done some good! As previously said, some people who've donated this week may not have otherwise, so the charity is better off, if only a small amount....
  • Franc
    Although a member of facebook, I have neither the time or inclination to update or view my profile regularly. My wife however is an addict. she changed her avatar of course, and we reminisced. I did not change mine. It occurred to me while reading this article that maybe the underlying motives could be aimed at increasing traffic on the site. This could be used to aid advertising statistics and increase revenue. Seems odd that the charity in question were not privy to the idea. Just a thought....
  • Luschka O.
    Ah. I am, in fact, all knowing. And you really shouldn't stick your gum there. :p
  • Luschka O.
    Actually, looking at that Justgiving page they're doing quite well. It's steadily crawling upwards and currently donations stand at just over £5300! Which is GREAT for the NSPCC.
  • Lynley O.
    I'm not sure I follow you Franc? To increase traffic on the FB site? Hmmm could get people checking their FB pages if they don't often do so, but that would depend on people talking about this in real life too. I wonder if it would really make that much difference to FB's overall stats? I assume here that you think it was FB themselves who were behind this?
  • Luschka O.
    Ooooh! Someone who out-cynics me! :D Very possible. The end result has been a good one, I think we're all agreed on that. I wonder what will happen with the next fad though - has the Childhood Cartoon Avatar campaign been the peak? Will be interesting to see!
  • Lynley O.
    I didn't know about the Just Giving page until you mentioned it Luschka, thanks! That's a really great total though, for the UK in just two days.
  • Luschka O.
    It is, isn't it?! Good on the public for helping out - as Vicki said, this has probably raised more in a shorter time than the TV ads do!

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