Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Week of Disappointment

And so, A Week 2012 ends, and I'm not overly impressed with the participation. Just on my own friend list on Facebook (which is not a good sample size, but is my quickest, easiest measure), only half a dozen A's appeared in profile pictures, and initially most of those were first-time participants, though a couple more caught up when I posted a mid-week reminder. That's hugely disappointing compared with A Week 2010, where over a dozen (my memory's fuzzy, but definitely more than 12) friends took part. This means at least 8 or 9 of them just aren't taking part anymore, and that annoys me. It suggests that they didn't really buy into the point of the project that first year, that it was just some sort of fashion fad to them, and now it's suddenly too much effort for them to go to the massively difficult length of changing their damn profile pic for a week. What a hassle!

Even the 2010 participation was relatively disappointing at the time, because most of my friends are non-believers. It shouldn't have been 12+ people, it should have been 120+ people. Weirdest, to me, are those people who responded to my last blog post very enthusiastically, saying what a good idea this is, but who then failed to change their pictures. Being annoyingly trendy I despise, but understand. But being passively enthusiastic, with such a trivially easy thing, is beyond me.

I was also surprised at how little support A Week seemed to get in the SA Skeptics FB group, which often seems to be treated as more of an explicit anti-religious group than just a pro-science group. I even noted someone there mocking the concept of A Week, but some weird, anti-social shift has definitely occured in that group's membership. That's a story for another post; for now, I just find it odd that hardly anyone there participated in A Week.

I thought I'd argued reasonably well last week for the small, subtle, but important goals A Week should be trying to aim for: Emotional support for isolated non-believers, first and foremost, and a shift in the public perception of atheism by making it more clear just how common and 'normal' a position it is. This is not a social volcano, suddenly and dramatically exploding established norms, but social erosion, gradually reshaping the landscape, one of the few cases where armchair activism can amount to more than just slacktivism and lead to some actual (if slow) change. Even so, the erosion would be more effective with broader participation. Perhaps some people lack the patience or vision to take part in that.

On the plus side, my personal thanks (for what it's worth, i.e. $17.62) to those who did carry on showing their A again this year and to those who took it up for the first time. I hope next year we can start expanding, rather than shrinking, perhaps bringing a bunch of backsliders back into the project.

(Note to self: There were some mid-week complaints of insufficient warning. Do a post about it a couple weeks in advance next year.)