The craze on Facebook a few months ago was to change your profile picture to a superhero. Then, you wrote a status about your change, and offer superhero suggestions to your friends. What’s the point, you ask? To raise awareness for childhood cancer.
Because changing your picture to Wonder Woman will help a child who has a few years to live.
Is raising awareness a bad thing? Of course not. But there’s more to be done once everyone knows about the matter.
It’s great that people are taking a few seconds of their time to bring attention to something so devastating. And I understand (insert broke college student joke here) that not everyone has the means to donate.
However, the danger in this passive participation lies in the inactivity afterwards.
Too often I see this kind of “support” on Facebook and elsewhere.
“Share this photo if you agree animals should be treated with decency!”
“Like this status if you think women should have rights!”
“Thumbs up if you hate poverty!”
Besides publicly letting people know that you have good intentions, you’re only feeding into someone else’s desire for attention.
Corporations do this all the time, like TOMS with their “One Day Without Shoes” campaign. Thousands of people participated, and thousands of shoes were given to those who were needy (or so we’re told).
Think of what also happened. TOMS got free publicity. Their brand got an altruism check. Yes, people received shoes, but think of how many more could have been donated if every person who had taken a picture of their bare feet gave up a pair of their shoes instead. Or when companies say they’ll donate “a portion of the proceeds” to some kind of cause — why not take it upon yourself to donate the whole percentage to the cause?
Conversely, there was another campaign done by Crisis Relief Singapore called “Liking Isn’t Helping.”
It’s a cold, hard truth that no matter how lazy and convenient we can make our generosity, it won’t be as effective as action. Gamifying can only go so far.
It’s the same principle as the ALS Bucket Challenge. Sure, the goal was to raise awareness, but what made the campaign successful were the people who donated as well as participated in the activity.
So, how to remedy this situation of wanting to help, and actually helping?
The simple answer is to offer choices to the people who notice the change can do something outside of their screens.
For example, if you do end up changing your profile picture for some kind of cause, add a link to a donation page and make a contribution yourself. Or volunteer your time at an organization that helps with the cause you’re looking to combat, and tell others about it.
There’s more you can do for any cause besides changing your picture or liking a photo.
Actions speak louder than words, but if those actions are passive in nature, you might as well be whispering.