Gone are the days (thankfully) that our Facebook feeds would be littered with heart wrenching photographs of suffering children; the post claiming that 100,000 likes would miraculously cure them, or that if you did not share you would be forever branded Satan’s minion.
Instead it would appear a new trend in social media campaigning is emerging- one that seems to be a lot more effective. There are two prominent examples: the #nomakeupselfie and the Ice Bucket Challenge. I do not know the specific name for these types of campaigns, but it involves being nominated, doing whatever dare is required, donating to a specific charity, and then nominating friends and family. It is always remarkable just how quickly these trends can spread: celebrities are getting involved, politicians are challenging one another, and the most hilarious of examples quickly become viral.
There are many complaints about these challenges involving how many people remember to donate, and what percentage of the donations go towards benefiting the charities involved. There are even people who have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge too far- there has been at least one death. But there is no doubt the outcome of these campaigns are impressive: the #nomakeupselfie raised £8 million in six days for Cancer Research, and The Ice Bucket Challenge has generated a huge increase of interest towards “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” (ALS), previously an often overlooked disease. (It has been suggested there is a lack of research into this disease because to develop a drug for patients would not be profitable, this however I am not sure of.) How on earth can campaigns like these dwarf petitions and sponsored runs so incredibly?
I think the answer is quite well-known: it comes down to our humble, human ego. In the age of social media dominated lives, our internet presence is a polished version of our own selves: we appear more exciting, more attractive, more funny and just downright more interesting than our daily lives would reveal. And so to have a presence on the internet for the price of a few pounds and perhaps some slight embarrassment, these campaigns to some are just irresistible.
Is it a bad thing? Respectable charities gain a surplus of funding to carry out care and research they dedicate their lives to. Patients feel that yes, people care, and they are not alone in their struggle. And we the public get a good laugh. I do not know enough to form an opinion of whether the benefits outweigh the flaws, but it cannot be denied a humongous amount of good is coming out of our easily tempted selves.
My question is, is this the new form of campaigning? It seems more effective than collecting money in shopping centres, or to phone supporters for more donations. Could more charities get on board and soon every month there is a new campaign, a new challenge- from Greenpeace daring people to dress as polar bears, to NSPCC asking everyone to post photos of their childhood selves. (I have a feeling if the frequency increases we would all soon get tired of the endless campaigns).
In some ways it is a depressing view of humanity: that we need the assurance of Facebook likes so we can prove we care by stepping out of our routines to do something for someone else. Is it possible to support a charity that holds special meaning to us, providing regular support through donations and membership, and not inform everyone we know of our kind, generous hearts? I agree with the notion that there is no such thing as a selfless act, but can our self-worth ever be decided by ourselves, and not how we wish to be perceived by others?
In the mean time, for as long as trends like these raise millions for charities: I for one will support the changing face of campaigning.