Friday, December 03, 2010

Status Updates and Slacktivism

It seems like every week or two, somebody is urging everyone on Facebook to post some random thing or do some other random thing in order to "show support for" or "raise awareness of" some good and noble cause. I'm gonna come right out and say it: Bullshit. These things have precisely zero to do with any cause, and everything to do with somebody getting a kick out of seeing everyone do what he says. It's the world's biggest game of Simon Says, and it's a waste of time that actually draws energy away from these good causes.

The latest one is allegedly about child abuse. The post says: "Change your Facebook profile pic to a cartoon character from your childhood. The goal is to not see a human face on FB till Monday Dec. 6th. Join the fight against child abuse & neglect. Copy & paste this to your stat to invite your friends to do the same."

Color me stupid, but what does the second sentence have to do with the third? Why is it a goal to "not see a human face on FB till Monday Dec. 6th"? Whose goal is it? What does that have to do with child abuse? How in the name of Joan Crawford does changing one's Facebook picture constitute "joining the fight against child abuse & neglect"? Answer: It doesn't.

At best, it's slacktivism, the online version of Event Psychosis, which is the irrational belief that attending a concert or buying a red t-shirt will somehow magically make the world a better place. Guess what, we didn't end world hunger when we held hands and sang "We Are The World."

So how about we all stop pretending we're making a difference, when what we're really doing is amusing ourselves? Hey, if you want to put your favorite cartoon character on Facebook, rock the hell on with it. Go crazy. Just please don't for one second believe that some kid out there is going to be spared a royal ass-kicking because your avatar this week is the Herculoids.

I love cartoons. Really I do. I've loved Goofy since I was 3, I learned to read from comic books, I still watch cartoons in TV. I've been a working cartoonist for three decades. Cartoons are fantastic, cartoonists are magicians who make the world more wonderful, and I love to see cartoons in the profile pictures on Facebook. But let's not kid ourselves.

I get to say this because for me it's personal. You want to know how to recognize people who were abused as kids? Here's a clue: they seldom use words like "abused." They don't talk about dysfunctional homes and use a lot of jargon. They usually don't say much about it at all, but if they do, they say things like "my dad was a drunk, and when he drank he was a nasty SOB, and he kicked the shit out of us a lot." I know firsthand what child abuse looks like, and let me tell you, as much as I love cartoons, seeing cartoons on Facebook would not have made anything better when I was hiding in the bathroom cabinet hoping Dad couldn't hear me. So please stop insulting me.

Announcing your bra color or making smirky jokes about where you keep your purse is not going to take the spot off anyone's mammogram. Changing your profile to purple is not going to keep a gay kid from getting beat up by thugs, and Snoopy is damn-sure not going to protect any kids.

Just knock it the hell off. If you want to "raise awareness" or "join the fight" against some societal ill, leave your damn Facebook profile alone and open your goddamn checkbook.


J.R. LeMar said...

"Slacktivism." I like that.

BTW: Gray

Troy Hickman said...

Well said.

Gecko said...


Toast Radio said...

Then this morning I saw the all-caps status update that said (in all seriousness) that the sea of cartoon faces were being used to lower children's defenses against pedophiles and for the love of god to change them back.