Sunday, December 05, 2010

Notes on the Facebook Child-abuse Cartoon Awareness Campaign


So you may be aware of the current meme on Facebook to post a favourite cartoon character from your childhood into your profile pic in solidarity to child abuse issues.

Change your FB Profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The Goal??? To NOT see a Human Face on FB until Monday December 6th. JOIN the fight against Child Abuse!!♥ (copy and paste to your status to invite your friends to do the same.

For some reason a lot of people think this is an empty gesture and a waste of time.  I've read a lot of Facebook threads arguing these points - including one on my own page.  I'm not going to bother reposting any of that here, but I will post what was my ultimate summing up of my opinions (minus some personal comments) - which at least identifies many other people's negative issues....

First, I'm having a lot of trouble understanding the negative reaction people are having to this awareness campaign. Every arument against it seems to come from a place of either ignorance or from an emotional argument rather than a reasoned one. There is no doubt that this is an emotionally triggered subject for people - particularly those who have experienced some kind of abuse.

This is an awareness campaign. It never claimed to be anything more.

Part of the issue seems to stem from the definition of 'awareness.' Yes, there is a nearly total absence of people who are connected to Facebook who are also unaware of child abuse and that it's an awful thing. Suggesting that this campaign is about spreading the word at that level is a total strawman. Rather this is about RAISING awareness levels at the level of personal understanding and detail, and having the cause benefit from that rise.

I've been aware of child abuse for longer than I could possibly assess with any accuracy. But how often do I think about it? Being that I never experienced it, it's not really something that haunts me - so really, I don't think about it often. But guess what? This week I have. Some of which I've sought out and much of which has been put in front of me. Knowing that child-abuse exists and is an atriocity is a long step away from knowing the wide spectrum of details associated with it. I've read a bunch about it and been told a lot more about it as a result of debates (sadly most of them about whether this is an effective campaign or not) and discussions on-line. Really, when it comes right down to it, the campaign is a success because one person - me - has been immersed in so much information as a result of it. But, it's safe to say I am not the only one.

I seriously doubt most people are ignorant enough to believe that changing your profile pic to a cartoon is going to make any sort of direct difference. If one person had changed their picture it would have been meaningless, but millions of people changing their profile pictures to something that is both symbolically interesting (and that is the genius of the campaign - calling out to our remembered innocence of youth) and that allows from some personal expression has makes it a much more interesting call to arms than a red ribbon (Sorry AIDS awareness, someone had to be the example - in your day you were the leading edge of awareness activism, credit where credit is due.)

Certainly not everyone who has changed their picture is going to donate to a child abuse charity, or intervene on behalf of a neighbourhood child in jeopardy, or volunteer - or any other suggestion anyone can come up with of things that have more direct effect on the issue. But some will. More will than did last week. How is that a bad thing? I'll ask that one again - HOW IS THAT A BAD THING? Yeah, some people will change their pics and tell themselves they've done their part. That is unfortunate that they feel that way, and it is a character trait that they will have to deal with in other manifestations in their life.

Does it trivialize those who have been abused? Even if I myself had been abused I can't really answer to that, because ultimately that is about your feelings as an abused person. But let me ask this, is it not worth enduring a little bit of trivializing by people who are genuinely care in the hopes that some additional resources are directed to the issue and that some other child (and hopefully many children) either suffer less or not at all in the way you did? I am frankly a little baffled by the selfish seeming anger of the past-abused who are railing against this campaign.

I don't really have any issue with people who aren't changing thier picture. We can't all get on board for every issue. Haiti, Aids, Breast Cancer, SPCA, UK Libel Laws - that is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. We don't all believe in all causes, and even if we did, there simply isn't enough time in a person's life to be effective at all of them. I only rarely do choose a cause to get behind. As a new parent, and having recently witnessed the severe emotional damage done to an adult who was abused, I was touched by this one. Perhaps by having chosen it I have raised my awareness of the debate surrounding it too, but it seems to me like this one has really put a fire in some people's tummies and it has caused a lot of debate.

What amazes me more is that the people who are jumping up and down shouting about the ineffectiveness of this campaign the most are in fact causing more discussion which.... raises more awareness. This campaign caused me to think more about child abuse than I regularly do even before I read the first dissenting comment - the debate that has raged across many discussion threads has probably made me think and find out more about child abuse than I ever have.

Scoff at it all you like, but the reality is - mission accomplished.