This latest craze swept over Facebook like a fierce storm this past weekend as thousands upon thousand of Facebook users switched their profile picture to their favorite childhood cartoon character.

Of course, mine was Fred Flinstone, but it was a difficult decision between that and Scooby Doo. That being said, I did see someone switch their picture to Velma which in itself is epic!

But, why are we all doing this?

First, let’s take a step back and try to identify what just happened that caused us all to take part. In the world of new media, the term that defines what a movement like this is called, is meme.

Here is how it is described on Wikipedia:

At its most basic an Internet meme is simply an idea that is propagated through the Web. This idea may take the form of a hyperlink, video, website, hashtag, or even just a word or phrase. This meme may spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, news sources etc….

An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, and parody versions, or even by collecting news accounts about itself. Internet memes can evolve and spread extremely swiftly, sometimes reaching world-wide popularity and then vanishing all in a few days. They are spread organically, voluntarily, and peer-to-peer, rather than by predetermined or automated means.

Their rapid growth and impact has caught the attention of both researchers and industry.[3] Academically researchers model how they evolve and predict which memes will survive and spread throughout the Web. Commercially they are now actively used in viral marketing, seen as a free form of mass advertising. The Internet community itself has cultivated methods to encourage the generation and popularization of successful memes (examples: TED Talks, digg, hashtags)

The term Meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 popular science bestseller, The Selfish Gene.[4]

The original intent for this meme was to raise awareness to fight child abuse. A very important cause that certainly needs all the awareness it can get and as an awareness campaign, I love it. Cartoon characters were popping up everywhere.

But, as the campaign comes to an end, I have to wonder what the result was.

I mean, in the midst of all these walks down memory lane, who is telling the story? Remind me again of why we were doing this in the first place?

In a way, it’s a lot like playing and old game of telephone. You remember… we all sat in a circle in like what… second grade? And someone started at the beginning by whispering into the first persons ear a word like…. car. Then, each person had to then lean over and whisper the same word into the next persons ear and so on and so forth.


How come every time we played by the time we got to the last person, the word car was not the word passed on? Somehow, the word car became banana. Therefore becoming the content and not the intent.

Now, maybe I am completely wrong here. Maybe there was an official website out there for us to go to and become educated on the issue as well as give us an opportunity to actually do something about it.

Fellow blogger, Brad Bechler wrote this on the origins of this latest craze:

Why Did the Cartoon Profile Pics on Facebook Craze Begin?

Reports have the origins of the craze in Germany.  It seems that the idea was spawned from a need to bring awareness to violence against children, and how human faces are a stark reminder of that fear.  In an effort to make less the bad memories of one’s childhood, or the current connection between violence and human faces, a group cause started.  The requirements to join were not based on donating money or signing up for a newsletter.  Instead, members would have to adopt a cartoon profile pic on Facebook in place of their current one.

The thought behind having a cartoon profile pic on Facebook in place of your real one is to show solidarity for the cause against violence towards children around the world.

It didn’t take long for masses of members to join the Facebook meme and post cartoon pics of their favorite characters from their own childhood.  The act of doing this takes one back to times that were hopefully pleasant and innocent.

As an awareness campaign this is brilliant. But, as a call to action campaign, what’s the point?

For me, I get tired of being all riled up about some cause that truly does move me and then get left wondering what am I supposed to do next.

In the past, I called it the 5:01 strategy.

If the awareness campaign ends at 5:00, then what happens at 5:01? In other words, what did we do during the awareness campaign that will lead this to become a sustainable call to action campaign in its next phase?

Did I switch my profile picture because I felt like I was doing my part to raise awareness for such a horrific issue as child abuse? Did I switch my profile picture because everyone else was doing it? Was it fun looking at everybody’s favorite cartoon character? Would I do it again? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!


Does there need to be a point? Am I just making something out of nothing?

Of course, my intention is to not seek to brush a broad stroke over everyone who took part, but to simply ask for what the result was of taking part in this mass sign of solidarity.

For the record, I did a quick search of organizations that are fighting child abuse through education and prevention. There are many out there.

With this, now that the awareness campaign is over, let’s not stop there.

It’s 5:01. What’s next?

How do we play telephone and keep the intent… the content?

By doing our part.

Check out what these folks are doing to fight child abuse… 401 KIDS.


3 responses »

  1. Marc says:

    Hey Gun…excellent points. I too have participated in these little mini “awareness campaigns” and wondered, “for what purpose…?”

    Then again, I tend to see it as simply part of the social networking mechanism, and that even if one person out of the tens of thousands who changed their FB photo decided to look a little deeper and get involved in some positive way, then I’ll change my photo any day of the week. I doubt if a picture of Felx the Cat instead of me will change the world in any real way. But action comes from awareness, not the other way around. So, you start with awareness and hope that out of that will distill action. People’s FB profiles will never cure an illness, feed the hungry, or rescue children from terrible situations. But they can trigger awareness, and that’s a start.

  2. gunsim says:

    Very well put, Marc!

  3. Tena 'Channah' Carr says:

    I’ve heard two rumors about this whole thing about switching profile pictures to favorite childhood cartoon character. One had to do with making an awareness about childhood abuse and the other was that it was actually a group of pedophiles who were wanting to make it so kids would accept their “friendship requests” on line quicker. I have no idea which one of those is actually the truth, but can only hope that it is the first one and NOT the latter. People who could do such a thing – the latter – well I can’t exactly say what I would have in mind for them in a public forum.

    I partly changed my picture cause everyone was doing so, though I didn’t change it as first. But in some ways I also changed it cause I thought it was a worthy thing to do (assuming it is about awareness of child abuse).

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