Today I have discovered one of the easiest ways to cause people to lash out on social media is to publicly help a friend financially.
My friend owns a small business and like many other small retail stores, Covid-19 shut it down. The business is not on the essential list in my state. In an attempt to help them, I started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for their immediate need. It is a very small family-owned and run business. The staff consists of a mom, a dad, and an adult son. For the son, the business is his sole income while his mom and dad have other income streams. My thinking was that a little cash in hand to buy food and keep the lights on would go a long way. This business is less than a year old. It is an entertainment retail store. As you know, the entertainment, restaurants, and pubs have been hit the hardest during the mandated closures. Sure, when the social distancing is lifted we will shop, eat and be merry at all our favorite places again. Some of us are intentionally saving part or all of the government stimulus to spend in that store and other local businesses. It will take time for these smaller companies to recoup.
To spread the word about helping my friend’s shop, I shared the link to the GoFundMe page on social media. One place I focused on was a private Facebook group that is associated with the business. I assumed that people in the group who patronize the small business would be more apt to be generous to help the struggling establishment stay afloat
and that’s how the fight started.
While a handful of loyal regulars stepped right up and donated, others were hesitant. They said that because a “third party” was asking for money it was “suspicious“. I was called all sorts of dishonest words. The lash out was harsh and the distrust was blatant.
There was a bit of back and forth between those who agreed with my strategy of a GoFundMe campaign and others who said I was looking for self-gain.
To be called “shady” and “sketchy” by people who do not know me is disheartening. However, it explains a lot about our society’s distrust of normal human decency and willingness to help others in the virtual environment where we live and conduct business every day.
We spend copious amounts of time online. We do tasks like shop, share life stories, educate our children, get diagnoses from doctors, conduct banking, and more online. All of that business, personal and public, was once only conducted in person.
When my grandfather’s automobile shop was faltering, he would never ask for a handout. That never stopped the community from pitching in to help my family. The help was active and wide-reaching. To help others back in the day, we rallied the housewives to cook, clean, and care for the children. Men knocked on doors and passed the collection plate at church to raise money for the person who needed it. Teenagers held carwashs. Grandmothers and aunts held bake sales and sold raffle tickets.
We can still do all those things, but today is different.
Websites like GoFundME, Kickstarter, Patreon, Fundly, Bonfire, Double the Donation, DonateKindly, Crowdrise, Razoo, and others make it easy for us to put our money where we want to help most. Unfortunately, it also gives snake oil salesmen and conmen a place to work. Hence the lash out I received.
I do not take the caution of those who responded negatively as a personal attack. Their distrust is a symptom of our society’s overall distrust of nice people. The reaction is to assume the person asking for money is out to scam you. That should be something you consider when giving away your money.
Still, the lack of confidence we as a human race have for each other when we see a kind deed or act of charity is poignant considering the shift in how we conduct our daily lives on and through electronic devices.
I encourage you to evaluate the motives of others and yes protect yourself when donating. Also, when dealing with people who are in your imidate community who are offering to help, give people a chance too.
Sometimes we have to trust and just act as our consciences lead us in the hope that what we are doing to help those who need it actually makes a difference.
Always do the right thing.