Awareness Alone is Detrimental

The latest trend on Facebook is to change one’s profile picture to a favorite childhood cartoon character. The goal is to raise awareness of child abuse. Danger: Just raising awareness of a problem does not help solve the problem.

ChildHelp provides important statistics on their website. “A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Almost five children die everyday as a result of child abuse. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.” Every individual in the United States knows someone who has been abused. Everyone knows that child abuse exists. Abuse still exists; therefore, lack of awareness is not the problem. Worse still, if people post their happy cartoon character and think that they’re doing their just portion then they will probably stop with just the cartoon and not do anything about the actual problem.

The problem is that few people are willing to enact solutions to stop child abuse.

The cartoon is a gimmick. The popularity of the cartoon means that it’s good gimmick. Any gimmick has to lead to action in order to be helpful – like how the Geico Gecko causes us to get a Geico quote on car insurance.

Use the gimmick to encourage genuine action. If you change your profile picture to that of a childhood cartoon, do not just leave it at that. Commit to posting a link to a useful organization. Initiate discussions about legislative changes. Donate to a helpful and active group. Talk about ways that individuals can voluntarily support victims and punish abusers.

Your profile picture alone will not help the child who is too damaged to bother crying. Do something with the attention your cartoon brings in order to actively help that child.

If you enjoyed this post, please share to Twitter and Facebook and consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Thank you! - Lorien


Katherine December 4, 2010 Reply

I entirely agree. I was so annoyed when I logged into Facebook this morning and saw the deluge of cartoon profile pictures. What does that accomplish? Nothing except alleviating weak consciences with the belief that their part has been done with minimal inconvenience and no personal involvement in the very disturbing reality that is child abuse. It's no better than posting the color of your bra on Facebook to raise awareness for breast cancer. Who actually benefits from this demonstration of support? Facebook creepers.

Lorien December 4, 2010 Reply

I saw a great article when I was checking to see if the bra thing did anything useful. It pointed out the disturbing sexualization of the meme and was right on target. No idea where it was.

I decided that my negativity on the cartoon meme would be more balanced if I implemented what I'm advocating… so I joined in and will be posting links to useful charities. Also, no one was posting Rainbow Brite and I felt bad for her.

Bex December 9, 2010 Reply

Pretty is as pretty does, or rather in this situation awareness is as awareness does. Yes you are right the majority of people on FB will not ever do something pro-active to help keep child abuse from happening. The HB is right across the hall from Exodus Cry yeah? Now for whatever issues you might have with their umbrella organization or whathaveyou when they first put out their sign people were asking me time and time again what it was. When I told them they were surprised that this was something that was going on in KC. Sex trade? Slavery? Here? But when they learned that Kansas City is among the most trafficked cities in the US they were appalled. Now 99% of those people will never do anything that would look like advocacy .05% of those people took a brochure and that last .05% will do something. However that 99%? They have that knowledge and when they are at some event with friends and a subject triggers that memory they can say "Hey, did you know that KC is one of the most trafficked cities in the US?" and maybe someone at that event will get 1,000's of people freed from slavery all over the world. That is how awareness works. Knowledge is power, really and truly. and yes you could say that some creeper sits at his computer and counts how many black bra's are being worn by facebook members. But who cares really? Someone might say I had no idea 600,000 kids were abused last year, I'm not going to let that happen anymore. Whoever started these ideas started them with good intentions. And Lorien you are right to post more info on awareness as the week goes on – that's awesome.

Lorien December 9, 2010 Reply

The good intentions are just that – good. They are insufficient, but they are good.

The problem is what I described: most will think that changing a photo on FB is enough and will feel justified in not taking more action. A fair number actually thought FB and charities were donating for each picture. Silly.

Awareness = good.
Thinking Awareness is Enough = bad.

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