The rise of social media has brought with it the rise of what I like to fall “faux charitable fuckwittery.” Faux charitable fuckwittery is the love child of the western world’s collective guilt and its intense desire to avoid responsibility.
The example of this that has set me off on this rant (and an earlier, verbal one) is called the UNICEF Tap Project. It works like this: you, the average human, downloads and app that measures how much you use your phone. For every ten minutes you leave it alone, a pile of generous, largely unnamed donors, donate enough money for UNICEF to provide a child with a day’s worth of clean water. It reads like one of the many hoax e-mail chains and facebook posts that claim a billionaire will donate one cent per share to a dying child, but it’s genuinely been set up by UNICEF.
Now, obviously, I have no problem with unnamed donors giving shitloads of money to UNICEF and their ilk, that is an excellent thing to do. And I also have no problem with people being encouraged to leave their phones the fuck alone for a bit. But the idea that wealthy corporations are going to let the size of their donations depend on how many people they can get to stay off their phones is LUDICROUS, and what’s more, it encourages the selfish attitude to charity that already comes so easily to all of us.
The problem I have with gimmicky, trendy, faux charitable fuckwittery is that it allows people to feel like they’re doing good in the world, when actually they’re doing nothing. Worse than that, they’re actively avoiding it.
Secret facebook status updates about bras and handbags that are supposed to raise awareness for arguably the most famous of all the cancers, signing online petitions that give no information about where they’re ultimately going – they take minimum effort and, unsurprisingly, do little to no good.
Better people than me have raised issues with the recent no make-up selfies craze. Aside from the fact that it’s genuinely disturbing to live in a society in which a woman showing her actual face is considered brave, or helpful, or interesting at all, too many of the posts made no mention of donation to any cancer charity. That particular drive has so far made a boatload of money for Cancer Research UK, which is brilliant, obviously, but so many people made a fuss over their photo and did literally nothing else.
And that’s just not as selfless as people seem to believe.
Charity and generosity, by definition, involve putting someone else’s needs before your own. Sacrificing something of your own for the good of others; your money, your comfort, your time, your pride, your anything.
And in fact that’s the only way it can benefit the giver as well as the receiver. Because the act of sacrifice is the act of acknowledging that you are not the most important person on the planet. It involves the conscious decision to be part of a community, instead of an individual working solely for his or her own gain.
We seem to only help others if we can do so with as little cost to ourselves as possible, and therefore we do no one, least of all ourselves, any good at all.
If you’re going to do good, do it yourself, don’t let some faceless corporation do it for you. Let them do their own.