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Posts tagged ‘charity’

Slacktivism: What Good Are Silly Facebook Memes?

Change your default Facebook picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on facebook until Monday the 6th of Dec. Join the fight against child abuse, and invite your friends to do the same.

That’s the latest cause on Facebook, and it’s got traction – not because people think this helps to fight child abuse, I rather suspect, but because we have such fond nostalgic memories of the cartoons we watched as kids. I chose a picture from Rainbow Brite – maybe I’m supporting abused gay children? Hard to say. But it’s been super-fun, and in some cases rather educational, to check out what TV shows others choose to represent themselves online.

My profile picture on Facebook - Rainbow Brite and Friends

Image via TV Tropes.

But are any of us really “joining the fight against child abuse”? Well, not really. I’d wager we’d all be willing to make a statement about how wrong it is – after all, child abuse isn’t one of those things people tend to stick up for. Even abusers would probably speak against it, justifying their own behaviour towards children by saying it’s “discipline” or “tough love”, not “abuse”. And like I said, most people aren’t really making a statement about child abuse. This is a fun Facebook game.

My good friend Drumrider wrote about this back in October, when the Facebook charity causes were breast cancer (through the bra colours meme or “I like it on the floor”) and supporting gay kids against bullying (where we showed our solidarity by wearing purple). In her post, she asks, “Did wearing purple make a difference?” and largely concludes that it did not. She references the Malcolm Gladwell concept of “slacktivism” – a passive kind of activism where Internet users can substitute changing a status here or a profile picture there for actual substantive work towards change. They can then say, “Well, I did my duty, I raised awareness” and go to bed with a clear conscience, even though they’ve actually made no real difference at all.

Have they?

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The Practical Charity Santa

Santa Claus

Image via Turn Back To God.

There’s a holiday tradition in my family. Ever since my husband and I met, we’ve made children’s charities a part of our Christmas celebration by purchasing and donating brand-new toys to children living in poverty. In fact, the tradition has been going on since before I met him: I started to secretly donate toys around the holidays as a teen with the proceeds from my part-time job. So I have a decade-long history with charity-giving for children.

And yet I’ve never had a year when the gift-giving process has been as difficult (or as satisfying) as this Christmas.

The reason seems simple to me. I’ve spent the last couple of years learning a lot about the needs of children – physical, social, intellectual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and developmental – and I wanted to take those things into account as I picked gifts for my Christmas Children. I’ve learned a lot about what shapes the way we each think and feel about ourselves. Some of it has been intellectual “book-learning”, but a lot of it has been experiential. I’ve watched children grow. I’ve looked at myself more deeply. I’ve considered what trends in my past have shaped me into the person I became.

Even more so, though – most likely because of the recession looming over us – I’ve also spent a lot more time thinking practically about the conditions of real life for those who have substantially fewer financial resources to fall back on. That left me second-guessing a lot of the gift-giving possibilities at my disposal. Gift-giving with the poor child in mind is not the same as shopping for well-to-do kids. There’s a lot to think about.

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