Sunday, December 5, 2010

Facebook, Child Abuse, and Challenging the Status Quo

[Editor's note: this is a heavily opinion-laden post which is unusual for me but does happen from time to time. Proceed with caution and an open mind.]

If you are a Facebook user, you know that there is a burnin' hot meme where users are changing their profile picture to their favorite childhood cartoon to raise awareness about child abuse.

Last night I did briefly post the above cave painting since it dates from the days of my childhood and is the closest thing to a cartoon during that time.  I have resisted the temptation to change my own Facebook profile pic (a face only a mother could love) for several reasons:
  • I think there are copyright violations involved in using cartoon images which are the intellectual property of the artists or studios involved. I am serious about this - "lifting" these images only reinforces the concept that everything is free on the Internet.  As someone who writes and lectures on genealogy, I can tell you that it is a constant fight to protect my own work. And, I have yet to see any major studio step in and sponsor this meme or participate in any way.
  • I don't see what the cartoons do to raise awareness of child abuse. Still within the past 30 minutes I've seen wall posts on Facebook that say, "Tell me again why we are all changing our profile pics to cartoons?" or "Why are do so many people have a cartoon as their profile photo?" I understand the ribbon awareness campaigns that started with the red ribbons in the 1980s to raise AIDS awareness.  So I get how it is supposed to work. But in most of these campaigns there is an organization behind the awareness raising.  Also there is a set statement as to what the symbol represents.  I don't see that with the current child abuse awareness meme.
I am not trying to be a naysayer here or spoil other peoples's fun. I get child abuse and the need for awareness.  In fact, those close to me know that I lived it. I was one of those kids whose nighmares came during the daytime. Well actually, at all times and I would never know what could set "it" off. Several horrendous incidents have shaped me, and will continue to shape me, for the rest of my life. So, unfortunately, I have some street cred when it comes to being able to talk about child abuse.

What disturbs me more is what I am seeing over on Facebook and other social media venues about those who want to offer a different opinion of this meme. There are some offhanded comments being made as some that are very deliberate and hateful. Why is it that when someone offers a differing opinion along with some solid advice and a different approach, that they are accused of being not just a spoil sport but downright evil?

Is it because the topic is child abuse? At one point a few days ago I said to myself, "Let's just see how quickly this devolves into one hot mess when someone offers a different opinion. I bet someone is accused of being pro child abuse or anti-children." And sometimes when I talk to myself I'm not just playin' crazy, these things come true.

And I'm not talking about someone who goes against the current just to be a contrarian or stir up the sh*t pot because they think it is fun. "Ummmm, let's see who I can piss off today . . ." Many of these people don't offer strong arguments for their opinions or are not open to the opinions of others.

The Internet, and all its social media wonders like blogs, Facebook and Twitter, has been a great vehicle in bringing folks together. And like family, when folks get together there are different opinions, each one valid, each with its own voice. I have to say I appreciate people like Kerry Scott at Clue Wagon who dare to offer their take on a meme or even a practice within the genealogical community.

For me, one of my 2011 New Year's resolutions is to challenge the status quo especially in the field of genealogy but also wherever I see people embracing concepts or ideas without stopping to think. Think whether the concepts are flawed or if a different approach might work better. Most of these challenges will deal with genealogy but occasionally you'll see me on my soap box on other issues too. I don't do this to rile people up. I do this because one of the biggest gifts given me is the ability to think and I guess I expect my readers to do the same.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Susan Petersen said...

Well stated, Thomas.

Kristin said...

I agree. I questioned the cartoon on my fb page. I didn't get any hate mail. Some didn't even know what it was about, just changed their profile photo because everybody was. a few people started posting links to help sites for child abuse. I never suffered abuse but I know up close and personal so many people that did and see the damage it can do and I don't see any connection to cartoons.

Kerry Scott said...

I couldn't agree more.

And I think that one of the good things about social media is that it gives us a place to express our views. We can disagree, and that's fine. But we're a diverse group with diverse experiences, and sharing those experiences and perspectives is good for everyone.

I've had a few people unfriend/unfollow me so far today...but I'm okay with it. Those are folks who probably would not have enjoyed my company online anyway.

Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski said...

Thank you for you very personal "take" on this subject. In ever considered for a moment the ethics involved, lifting copyrighted material in my zeal to jump on the bandwagon in a show of support. It isn't enough to say that I meant well.

Greta Koehl said...

Today you and Kerry are my heroes. I admit that I never change my profile picture out of pure laziness. But I don't believe it helps anything, either, and I think it has considerable potential to trivialize the problem. My belief is, "Want to raise awareness? Then get out there and do something to help. People will ask you what you are doing and why. Then is the time to raise awareness, by explaining your actions, and it will make a stronger and longer lasting impression because the person telling them this is actually doing something."

Donna - What's Past is Prologue said...

I challenge the status quo by usually not participating in daily blogging themes and just doing my own thing. LOL. Not that I mind if others participate. That's what makes America great - it's a free country.