In the middle of writing about this topic, I realized that the post was MASSIVE, so I decided to break it into two parts. You can head to Part 1 to read about cause fatigue and branding in relation to using new media and blogs to promote social causes. In this part, I want to talk about hypocrisy and responsibility.
As I’ve noted on the first post, I do realize that this is a highly emotional topic and not everyone agrees with me. In fact, my opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other members of the BlogWorld team or BlogWorld as a whole. I welcome comments on this topic, even if you don’t agree with me, because I think there is merit to many facets of this topic.
How many people retweeted a link to some social cause out there? Almost all of us have at some point or another. Now, how many people have actually donated? That number will likely be much smaller. Does that mean that we’re a society of hypocrites? Maybe…but not necessarily.
We all have our causes, causes that are close to our hearts. For me, it’s TWLOHA, an organization that helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. When I have extra money to donate somewhere, that’s where it goes 99 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about other causes. There are some great charities out there. Even if they are causes close to my heart, I can definitely appreciate movements like #sxswcares, for example.
So, I pass on the link, just once, to followers who might be interested. I don’t want to get to the point where I hit cause fatigue for my followers, so unless I’m passionate about the cause, I don’t send multiple tweets about it. But I don’t think I’m a hypocrite for passing on the link even if I don’t donate myself. One of my followers might be passionate about the cause and wouldn’t otherwise know where to donate. (I’d like to note that I do think that if you want to support a cause, you at least need to explain it by passing on a link. I talked about the whole “changing your avatar” thing before – it doesn’t make sense to me to follow a trend without actually being vocal about the cause.)
I personally grapple most with the concept of a responsibility to use social media or your blog to promote causes. On one hand, if you’re someone who carries some kind of clout on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, it seems like the least you can do to promote a good cause. On the other hand, why should anyone be responsible for anyone else? It’s a very Ayn Rand way of thinking, and I’m definitely not her hugest fan…but this is a concept that definitely makes sense to me. I work hard for my money and I don’t like being guilted into thinking that I have to give it away to those less fortunate.
Not that there’s not something to be said for karma. Whether or not you believe in karmic forces, I think we can all agree that it’s a pretty scummy thing to rely on the charity of others when you’re dealing with a tough time in life, but then refuse to contribute to others when you’re in a position to do so. I’m just suggesting that it is okay to keep the money you make or spend it on yourself and your family. I don’t believe that anyone has a responsibility to donate to charity or even promote a cause, no matter how influential they are. Choosing to do so (or not) does not dictate whether or not you are a good person and it definitely does not dictate whether or not you do anything of value.
In other words, whether or not someone donates to charity does not tell me much about how good they are at their job. At the same time (I told you, I grapple with this issue), I like giving my money to someone who is a philanthropist, since it means that some of the profits they made from me will go toward something good in the world. So, even if we don’t have a responsibility per se, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good business decision.
Which brings me back to the “profiting from tragedy” issue. If you’re only donating because you want to look good to your fans, is that a bad thing?
Maybe…but does the charity really care? A dollar is a dollar, whether you gave it just to feel good about yourself and didn’t even tell your followers or you gave it to help build your brand in some way.
Is there an easy way to wrap up these two posts? I don’t know. I struggle with how to best use my new media accounts and the small amount of online influence that I have. I like how it make me feel to promote great causes, but I always want to make good business decisions and use my money wisely. One thing is certain – I do not like how so many people lump others into groups when it comes to causes. The “if you don’t donate, you’re a bad person” argument doesn’t sit well with me. Nor does that “the least you can do is promote this cause” argument. We all have our reasons for supporting or not supporting causes, and it usually isn’t black and white.