Sunday, December 01, 2019

Facebook Charities


I was just scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed (not really “news;” what it’s actually feeding us is open to debate – some other time) and I was solicited by well-meaning friends and strangers (though, still “friends” in Facebook’s world – again, a debate for some other time) for some worthy cause. No sarcasm, I mean “well-meaning” and “worthy” in their purest sense. Both consist of real, live people who are trying to make the world a better place – the former through solicitation and the latter through organization and activism. There is nothing inherently wrong with either nor is there anything wrong with seizing upon some opportunity, like one’s birthday, to stoke the “giving” fire.

Facebook, however and sadly, has made the act of giving, of altruism itself, a promotional tool. One cannot, apparently, simply ask others to give. Facebook, of course, knows my birthday is coming up. I have been solicited to solicit my “friends” numerous times over the past couple of weeks. Now, less than a week out, those “prompts” are coming daily. It tells me who among my friends have done so, who among my friends have donated and even makes suggestions as to which causes might be worthy of my promotion. It sounds like Facebook is, with our help (like, we’re a team, we are in this together) making the world a better place. But mostly we are making Facebook a bigger place.

Further, and getting beyond, and, in some respects, before Facebook, why do we need a “special occasion” to be altruistic? Why is there such a big push to donate Thanksgiving turkeys and other fixings this time of year when people are hungry all year? Why does it take a celebrity passing from some disease for us to care about everyone else suffering from it? Why does doing charitable acts need promotion and, even more so, why is anyone besides the recipient of the aid benefiting?

Okay, some of the answers are obvious. The “business” of raising money costs money. There are some charities that do a very good job reducing and minimizing those costs, but even they rely on people who do the work for pay so that they, too, will not need the aid of the charity they work for. Get it. There are others on the opposite end of the spectrum that are nothing but scams. Due diligence is important and, to some degree, the advice (or solicitation) of our friends serves that purpose. We trust our friends. They care, so we care. But Facebook has altered what the term “friend” means. I have more than 2,000 Facebook “friends.” I know several people who have hit their 5,000 friend limit. Absolutely no one can maintain that many friends. Period. So let’s just establish that of those friends, many if not most, are not really friends.

But taking a step back, do we really need the push of our friends or family to give? I would hope not and I would further hope that we are not waiting for opportunities to come along, but rather we are  actively seeking out those causes that are important to us. If we happen find out from a friend (a real friend) about some need that appeals to us, so much the better. But you (and I am speaking specifically to my own friends here) don’t need my suggestions or prodding to give. You also don’t need my birthday. You (everyone) can do it every day. It’s not even hard to do.

I am dead set against promoting my charitable acts. The power, for me, comes from my anonymity. I have made rare exceptions when a need is immediate and someone close to me is involved (usually through posting a GoFundMe campaign link – as much as that giving “service” goes against the very idea of charity). Generally, when I give, only I know about it. When possible, not even the recipient will know. Since I can’t give enough to affect my taxes, not even the IRS knows who got how much. And that is just the way I like it.

So, in six days I will turn 57 years old. For my birthday, give something to someone less fortunate. But don’t stop there. Do the same for your birthday. And the other 363 days? If you can, if you could find it in your heart and within your ability, give then, too. Give whenever and where ever you can. Make the world a better place. Don’t do it because I am having another birthday this year, do it because it is needed. You got yours, you worked hard, but you also got some luck. Maybe you can share the luck part, at least, a little. Do it for a birthday. It doesn’t matter whose, anyone’s is fine. Someone is having one today.