I am Optimus Prime: Does making your Facebook profile pic a cartoon really help?

I am Optimus Prime. Not the Michael Bay billion-dollar craptastic version, the real 80s cartoon version, or at least that’s me on Facebook right now. Why, you ask? Well, because I damn well want to. What gave me the idea? Well, read on…

It’s actually part of a viral campaign to raise awareness about child abuse that a number of people on Facebook have taken to heart or at least their profile pics over the past few days. Here’s the concept (and what people joining in have been posting as their status update:

“Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday, Dec 6th of 2010, there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories! This is for a campaign against violence on children.”

While this is clearly for a good cause, the kind of good cause that no one can possibly be against, but I still wonder what affect, if any, it will have.

These types of campaigns are everywhere. in just the past few months we’ve seen the Breast Cancer awareness campaign “I like it on…” with women stating things like, “I like it on the stairs” or “I like it on the kitchen table” in reference (obviously) to where they like to keep their purse. And prostate awareness month, Mo-vember was certainly helped through viral ad spreading, but does it work?

I don’t think someone will have a revelation such as “wait, I can’t beat my son or molest my niece, not since Wendy from work became a smurf on my computer screen!” but I don’t think that’s the point, either.

I think it’s more of a way to mobilize people to take a stand by doing something they wouldn’t have done otherwise, or at least not done at that specific time in such numbers. It’s also the kind of thing that does get people to think and maybe, just maybe, could get someone responsible for child abuse to think and realize, randomly in the moment, that people aren’t cool with what they’re doing.

On the off chance that someone I don’t even know, is abusing children decides to stop and gets help or turns themselves in because I’m Optimus Prime for a few days, then the whole thing is worth it. If not, then I was a cartoon character online, which was worth it, too.

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One comment

  • I’m very skeptical over this type of “activism.” The point of the campaign is to first, change your picture, and second, donate to a charity. Like the Movember movement (growing a mustache in November to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer), it’s not going to DO anything unless you accompany it with actually raising money. Otherwise, you’re just part of a fad that can be almost patronizing. Oooh, lucky children who are being abused, we THOUGHT about them, they’re SO lucky! And we’re imposing OUR happy childhood memories, which they may not have had – to help them realize that they’re missing out on something they have no control over.

    While I wholeheartedly support small actions, whatever it takes to mobilize people, I worry about things like this. People do something small like change their profile picture and they stop there, thinking they’ve made a difference somewhere, when all they’ve really done is make themselves feel better. This delusion takes people’s shift away from actually DOING something that will really make a difference. I may even be so bold as to say that this is characteristic “white people activism” – where we’re the privileged ones who feel charged to help everyone less fortunate than ourselves. It’s somewhat good on the short-term, but unsustainable.

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