Time for a real change

In December, my Facebook newsfeed was overrun by pictures of cartoon characters. The characters were often accompanied with a status imploring the user’s friends to change their profile picture to a photo of a cartoon character from their childhood. The reason for the mass conversion to nostalgic images was, according to the status, to ignite “a campaign to stop violence against children.”

I am absolutely for anything that will raise awareness for an important cause, especially if the cause is to help protect children who live in constant fear of abuse. That being said, changing a profile picture did not help anyone.  I agree that the pictures may have briefly raised awareness when people saw the status for the first time, but the likelihood of most people doing anything about it was slim to none.

Essentially, adding the status and profile picture are the same as meeting a child of abuse and saying that you can’t do anything for them, but you’re going to advertise a cartoon from your own childhood as a sign of your support for their fight. It’s ludicrous to think that anyone would actually look in the face of a battered child and explain their sign of advocacy to them. Why do people think it’s enough to do that on Facebook?

Children deserve the utmost protection. While it is terrible that anyone could ever do something as heinous as hitting a child — especially if they are the person who should be protecting the child — abuse won’t stop being a problem unless people do more than update their social network profile.

This half-hearted attempt at activism is something that has become all too common with our generation. We obviously live in a society with no shortage of problems and it’s great for young people to want to raise awareness to combat these evils.  I don’t mean to downplay the compassionate thoughts that anyone wants to express, but if there isn’t real action behind the tactics to raise awareness, then it’s not accomplishing anything.

Similar to the cartoon profile picture changing was the sudden surge of Facebook events about wearing a certain color to raise awareness for a certain cause. Again, by no means am I diminishing the sentiments behind these events. All of the “Wearing [insert color here]Days” that I heard of were for great causes, whether it was for AIDS awareness or to fight bullying. Unfortunately, the effort stopped there.

These pseudo-attempts at activism are not helping. Wearing pink won’t save women from getting breast cancer, but advocating for the women in your life to get mammograms might. Wearing purple to stop bullying won’t stop millions of children from being bullied, but joining a mentor program and showing kids their personalities are valued might.

In the metro Detroit area alone, there are plenty of ways to actually make a difference. Instead of — or in addition to — changing your profile picture, you can volunteer at a hotline for domestic abuse or donate to a shelter like HAVEN or Grace Centers of Hope. Websites like VolunteerMatch.org and Serve.gov have literally thousands of opportunities to volunteer.

It’s simply not enough to raise awareness. Changing a profile picture is a decent first step, but it’s time for us to take real action to curb the problems facing our world.