A few days ago I reactivated my Facebook account after not having used it for almost a year. As well as the usual messages, invitations, and friend suggestions – I was amazed by the number of people who had switched their profile pictures. The standout for me was a seemingly emergent use of cartoon characters as profile pictures.
Using one of Google’s lesser known products, "trends", it become obvious that there is something, probably not quite enough to call it a trend just yet, but certainly enough for me to follow a hunch. Google trends is reporting a huge jump in the volume (Search Volume Index) of people searching Facebook cartoon profile pictures. The jump, from an almost flat line (for all intensive purposes) to a large spike appearing in late 2010."
Interestingly, the United States and the United Kingdom represent spikes in search volumes for the terms “Facebook cartoon profile picture” while the countries Malaysia and the Philippines represent spikes in volume for search words “Facebook cartoon picture”.
It seems in recent weeks, users of Facebook have been searching for pictures of beloved cartoon characters from their childhood. People are switching their profile pictures to cartoon characters dating from as far back as the 50′s. Also cartoons which aired in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s are also popular, with cartoon characters from the 90′s not lagging far behind.
And the reason for this trend, I might have been better informed if I had only stoped to read about Facebook’s latest campaign to raise awareness of child abuse. User’s have apparently been asked to change their profile picture to a cartoon character for the short campaign which ends December 7, 2010.
So why then have people in Pakistan been searching for “Facebook cartoons” since late 2008?
Another term (word) that has a large search volume is “Slacktivism”. According to Wikipedia, Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism) is a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is considered a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts also tend to dilute awareness campaigns and require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.
While Facebook’s campaign intentions are very admirable, I sincerely hope that change occurs beyond pictures. After further browsing, many who now display cartoons for profile pictures have not change their status.