Cartoons Take Over Facebook to Stop Child Abuse

What was your favorite cartoon as a child? Judging by the new avatars of users’ profiles on Facebook, the most popular cartoons of my generation appear to be Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and Animaniacs. Facebook users are changing their avatars this weekend to bring awareness to child abuse.

This new campaign started sometime last week with a viral “game” that was shared on friends’ walls:

“Change your profile picture to your favorite cartoon from when you were a kid. The goal of this game is not to see a human picture on Facebook, but an invasion of childhood memories until Monday. PLAY AND PASS ALONG!”

The interesting part, as you may notice, is a lack of reason in the message about why users are changing their profile photo, which is similar to what happened in the game women played back in October when they updated their Facebook Status with “I Like It On…” to bring awareness to breast cancer. The idea was to imply where they liked their purses, and when asked what they were talking about, to discuss breast cancer. Of course, the sexual innuendo was a tease for men, and many women thought they were actually supposed to announce where they liked the other “it.”

So, just like the breast cancer “it” game, the Facebook cartoon game doesn’t seem to have any actual meaning either, since most people on Facebook don’t know why everyone is changing their photo. The other problem users are questioning is what impact this game has. Even if users are aware of the point of changing their photos to favorite childhood cartoons, there is no call to action – like donating to a child abuse prevention fund. In the end, I also just can’t identify who my friends are – especially since Facebook updated their chat feature recently, and the only way to know if a friend is online and available to chat is via a list of avatars of friends. Luckily, hovering over an picture reveals the name of the Facebook user, but this new game indicates that the use of picture-only identification of users could be a usability problem if Facebook users begin to use something other than their own photo more often.

Did you change your Facebook photo to a cartoon character? Do you think these viral Facebook games could ever have their intended impact?

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Kelly Clay, author of Blog Without Boundaries, is a freelance writer and lifestyle advisor.