As a skeptic one of the things I would like to see from other people is an open mind. But sometimes it’s easy forget you can be equally close-minded in your own beliefs.
It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you think you’re being skeptical. Or in this case perhaps a tad cynical.
To say I’m not a fan of the social media phenomenon of changing your avatar or updating your status to support a particular cause is somewhat understating it.
It started with women posting the colour of their bra to support breast cancer awarness and it’s been near constant since then.
The latest, changing your avatar to a cartoon character to show your support in the battle against violence on children, seems equally fatuous to me.
I mean who supports doesn’t want to see breast cancer eradicated? Would not changing my avatar mean I was somehow advocating violence against children? Of course not.
In fact I made the point vociferously on Facebook and twitter and followed it up in the best way I thought possible – donating some money to the Starship Foundation.
I did this because I strongly believed that one million people changing their avatar will change nothing while actually giving some cash might do some good…
And there I sat, smug because I’d actually did something other than piss around with my picture on Facebook. Until someone sent me a direct message on Twitter.
“Quick question: had the Facebook campaign not been out there, would you still have made a donation today to Starship?”
And that’s when it struck – that moment of realising you talk the talk but not always walk the walk.
The truth is I do donate to charity. I’ve raised thousands over the year. But the chances of me looking for a charity which can help children who have been abused and donating in the next few months was low.
So while I believed I was being open minded and skeptical I wasn’t really.
I then had an ongoing conversation with that person who had changed their avatar, researched charities in New Zealand and then donated. And, as she rightfully pointed out, if she had done that then she’s likely not to be the only one.
And by my donating I had proved her point. Although I didn’t agree in the slightest with the campaign as a direct result I ponyed up cash. In her words ‘Surely it’s a good thing?”
That was an eye-opening conversation. We started off in polar opposite positions and ended up broadly agreeing. And it felt good.
Now I’m not arguing I was completely wrong. I still wish those who jump to show their support online would actually end up doing something more.
And the only discussion I’ve seen coming out of the issue has been about the cartoon character, not the problem.
But more importantly for a skeptic it’s a gentle reminder that when you hope for people to open their mind you can’t afford to close yours.