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Why Changing Your Profile Photo DOES Help


My colleague Allison Boyer recently published a post right here on the BlogWorld blog about how changing one’s profile picture to reflect the cause of the day doesn’t really do anything. Allison basically calls b.s. on arguments that group reactions, such as changing one’s profile picture in support of child abuse victims doesn’t really raise awareness, or really do anything for that matter.

And this is where I disagree.

I’m not a huge fan of memes because I think they’re silly. I don’t generally follow the pack when it comes to posting stuff in my Facebook status, but I did this time, and here’s why:

I know for a fact that several of my Facebook friends are victims of child abuse in one form or another. I changed my photo for them. I changed my photo to say, “I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have suffered, but now you can know you have my support, however you need it. ”

Now, changing my profile photo to a cartoon isn’t going to change that fact, nor will it stop people from abusing children. It won’t bring in millions of dollars or get anyone arrested, but it tells my friends I have their backs. I liken it to a candlelight vigil. Lighting candles won’t change the fact that someone died or someone is healing or that we don’t appreciate a certain behavior but it tells victims and victims families that we’re there for them. We might not be able to afford to donate, but we can offer a safe haven or a shoulder to cry on.

This is the Facebook community’s candlelight vigil.

People sometimes feel helpless as they know they’re never going to cure the world of what ails it. However, changing to a cartoon for a couple of days makes them feel as if they’re helping in some way, so I have no problem with it. If a victim of child abuse sees my cartoon picture in my profile and knows that I care, then it’s worth the whole brouhaha.

Allison, these memes ARE a call of action because they have us thinking about issues and discussing these issues. And yes, there are people taking action by donating or blogging, even if they’re not necessarily vocal about it.

Am I changing the world? Perhaps not. Am I making someone’s day? I hope so.


  • Michele McGraw

    Very true! I hadn’t thought about it like that. Thanks for the opposing view!

  • Michele McGraw

    I was thinking more about the candlelight vigil analogy. All the ones that I have attended still had a call to action (and it hasn’t been many so maybe it was the exception and no the norm). They asked for donations to a cause that had to do with the reason for the vigil. Or they handed out pamphlets where you can get more information. So, I still think the candlelight vigils are offering a call to action.

  • Alli

    I think you make a great point that someone who’s dealing with the problem could see your cartoon picture (or whatever the meme of the day is) and feel better. That’s definitely a perspective that hadn’t crossed my mind.

    I do still stand by my argument that it makes more sense to be vocal about it than it does just to change your picture because it’s a Facebook trendy. I shouldn’t have had to hunt for days to find someone referencing why they were changing their picture, and I definitely shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for not participating (not that you’ve done that – but others have). I think the comment Michele made on the other post makes a lot of sense – changing your picture to include some kind of logo would be 100 times better.

    “And yes, there are people taking action by donating or blogging, even if they’re not necessarily vocal about it.” I think that makes an interesting point too. People are so involved with social media that they’re willing to change their pictures. But they’re not willing to talk about donating, blog posts they’ve done, etc. I wonder why. (I don’t have an answer for that…but it’s interesting to think about.)

  • Judy Helfand

    Hi Deb and Alli,
    I read both of your posts. It didn’t take me long to figure out the campaign on Facebook, as I don’t have that many FB friends, so it is easy enough to scroll through and find the latest TREND. I actually gave some thought to changing my AVATAR (a word a really don’t care for) to comply with the meme (another phrase that annoys me), but then I thought to myself…I am way too old and have enjoyed way too many cartoon characters over the years and I don’t own the rights to any of these copyrighted drawings…so I did not change my avatar. Imagine how many would have changed their avatar had a wealthy person offered to donate some amount to a child abuse foundation for every changed avatar.

    Today I read another post http://vanillabean45.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/facebook-meme-more-insulting-than-helpful/ maybe you have seen it. Quite compelling.

    I thank you both for writing and sharing your ideas. My thought is this…love the children you have and they will pass it on.


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