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Facebook Cartoon Profile Pictures: Not a Pointless Hoax

By sandymaple |

rainbow brite

Did you change your Facebook profile picture?

Unless you are one of the few people who don’t have a Facebook account, you probably noticed something weird going on during the past week.  Friends have been replacing their Facebook profile photos with images of cartoon characters, many from the 1980s and earlier.  But while it’s been a giggle to see some of these long-forgotten cartoon characters get a new lease on life, what exactly was the point?

According to the status updates that accompanied these profile picture changes, the point was to raise awareness of violence against children:  “Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday (December 6), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but a stash of memories. This is for eliminating violence against children.”

But like so many other things on the Internet, it appears that the Facebook cartoon profile pic switch was just a big old hoax.

According to, the idea originated as public message to Facebook users in Greece and Cyprus.  The original message that circulated to Facebook users there simply instructed them to change their Facebook profile pictures to cartoon characters for the sole purpose of eliminating “all photos of human for a few days from Facebook.”

No mention of children or the elimination of violence against them.

But, as things are wont to do on the Internet, the idea caught on and, with the addition of a vague connection to child abuse prevention, the meme spread. By late Friday, Care Bears, Muppet Babies and Rainbow Brite ruled Facebook.

But now that we know the great Facebook Cartoon Profile Pic Switch of 2010 wasn’t officially connected to any particular cause, does that make the entire exercise pointless?  I don’t think so.  Even if it wasn’t originally intended to do so, it did raise awareness of an issue that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention.  And now that the subject has been broached, why not take it a step further?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40 million children under the age of 15 are abused and neglected.  According to a United Nations study on violence against children, most of those acts are carried out by people these children know and should be able to trust.  Learn more about violence against children and what you can do to help by visiting Child Help, Stop It Now, or any of the other organizations linked at the Campaign to End Childhood Violence Facebook page.

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9 thoughts on “Facebook Cartoon Profile Pictures: Not a Pointless Hoax

  1. IrishCream says:

    I’m not sure this counts as “raising awareness.” I don’t think there are many people out there who were completely unaware of the existence of child abuse, and I seriously doubt that many people were moved to DO something about it. Stunts like these tend to lull people into a false sense of accomplishment without achieving anything concrete.

  2. Kikiriki says:

    I agree, IrishCream. How many people gave time or money, or got a breast exam, as a result of the “I like it on the X” meme that was supposed to raise awareness for breast cancer? I would be very interested to know if anyone changed their behavior as a result of that Facebook campaign!

  3. Kikiriki says:

    I also noticed that the majority of posts on Babble about this topic have been about cartoon characters, not child abuse, which I think is significant.

  4. ALittleShort says:

    I am on facebook quite a bit, and normally when things like this come up, I don’t participate because I know that just changing my status update, or changing my picture will not change the state of the world. And IrishCream, I completely agree with you as well. That being said, I did change my profile picture this time. Why? because I miss the old cartoons. Cartoons for kids these days are absolute crap. I HATE them. (my profile picture is currently Animaniacs). I did post the child abuse awareness post when I changed my photo, but to be totally honest, it has been more fun seeing all the different profile pictures change to my childhood memories. Back when cartoons were good and thoughtful and not the anime(sp?) crap.

  5. Kikiriki says:

    I think that just having the cartoon meme would have been fine with me! Adding on some sort of social “message” doesn’t really do anything for the cause and to me, takes what could just be a fun social meme and turns it into what looks more like those fake health chain emails my mom always forwards to me (really, stop it, mom!).

  6. IrishCream says:

    I HATED the “I like it on the…” business. Like the “I heart boobies” bracelets, it was just an excuse to be coyly provocative.

    Kikiriki, our moms must be on the same distribution list for those chain emails! :)

  7. the original Sarah says:

    After I changed my profile pic, I posted this as my status update, and had about 10 of my friends copy it and post it as there’s too. I wrote mine after a friend posted a similar one without the link. Things like this are silly, but not entirely pointless.

    Changed your profile pic to bring awareness to child abuse? Here’s more you can do: Ideas on how to help prevent child abuse:

    Help out your friends and family that have kids and are stressed out.
    Volunteer with a youth group.
    Volunteer at a non-profit that works with families.
    …Become a foster parent.
    Help with or start an after school program.

    Check out

  8. Manjari says:

    Seriously, what is it with moms and the chain emails?

  9. IrishCream says:

    I keep telling her to go to to check it out first, but she never does… And she used to be a reporter who had to fact-check everything!

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