I changed my avatar on Facebook recently. Several of my friends posted a request that you do so to show support of a campaign to end child violence and so I obliged. Do I support an end to child violence? Of course I do. Do I think that changing my avatar will make a difference? Probably not, but here are the reasons why I did it anyway.
Visual displays of belief have been around for as long as the beliefs themselves and have often been used for good – as well as twisted by dangerous elements in society.
Let’s look at the swastika. The word is derived from the Sanskrit svastika, and means any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is an image used in Hinduism to denote the creator god Brahma. In Buddhism it is the heart symbol stamped on the chest of Gautama Buddha’s chest after his death. And in 20th Century Europe it was twisted by the Nazis to spread their cult of intolerance and aggression. They also used the Star of David, a positive religious symbol, to mark out what they saw as the underclass.
By changing my avatar on facebook, all I was doing was marking out that I believed that action should be taken. Did I feel smug and self satisfied as a result? Not really, but it was a start.
Some people have criticised the whole exercise as being too easy, that those who change their image think that in doing so they have done enough. I am sure that there might be some who do. But there will also be just as many – and I hope more – who quietly and privately give their money and time to these organisations too. They may just choose not to make a big thing about it. I personally believe that private giving means more than making sure everyone knows how generous you are, but so long as the charity gets the help it needs, does it really matter? And I do resent people assuming that going from a picture of me to Undercover Elephant means that I am happy to sit on my backside and feel ‘mission accomplished’. I feel angry on behalf of the thousands of people out there who believe as I do, and quite frankly, I don’t care about those who do nothing else.
Another reason I changed was because some of my friends, who I love dearly, did so and by not changing mine too I was concerned they would be insulted. Writing it down it sounds very silly, but these are people I care deeply for and I’d hate to hurt them unknowingly.
You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. I’d just rather that you didn’t criticise people who at least get these causes discussed on twitter on a Sunday afternoon.