Social Media: An Agent of Change or a Placebo?

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (December 6th), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against …children.♥

“Does social media help or hinder working for social change?”:  Krish Kandiah asked this question on 29th of November on Twitter and linked to his blog about the topic.  I made a comment on the blog that said “Does social media anesthetise us? We can click ‘like’ and feel that we have done something about the problem without actually engaging on a less superficial level” and then left it at that.  However, last night and this morning Facebook went wild with the above message asking people to change their profile picture to a cartoon character from their childhood to “stop violence against… children”.

Nowhere does anyone link to the NSPCC to donate to the cause.  So what does the act of changing your profile picture actually do?  Do people donate?  Probably not.  Do people who abuse children look at Facebook, see a picture of He-man and change their behaviour?  Probably not.  Do people who have changed their profile picture feel that they have actively done something about child abuse.  Probably.

Is this sort of viral social media message harmless fun or the next step in the chain email, “Forward this angel to 10 of your friends or something bad will happen” or is it something else.  My worry is that this form of social media action is something much more problematic.  If this is the placebo that convinces people that they have done something to make the world a better place it actually inhibits people from taking part in the real social action that will make a difference to real world situations.

Please give money to the NSPCC.  This is the link you need to do it.  Please be part of the solution rather than the mental anesthetic that disconnects us from the problem.

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3 Responses

  1. Yep, it’s not even an official NSPCC campaign. Although they have tweeted to say they welcome the publicity – very generous I think, considering (as you say) that they don’t gain anything substantial from this.

  2. Thanks Robb – uncomfortable reading but I think you are spot on.

  3. I have given, and posted the donate link to my fb profile

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