If you have a Facebook—psh, if—you’ve probably noticed all of the links to GoFundMe pages on your news feed. And if you have a brain, they probably annoy you as much as they annoy me.
By virtue of the fact that I’m a college student with mostly other college students for Facebook friends, most of the GoFundMe pages I’ve seen have been created by someone seeking helping paying for tuition or a trip.
My gut reaction to these pages is anger. I want to yell—if only you could yell on a website—“You aren’t the only one whose tuition is a financial burden! You aren’t the only one who would like to have someone else pay for a trip to a tropical island!”
It’s easy to interpret the pages as an implicit assertion of the poster’s hubris. They imply that, by virtue of uploading a picture of themselves and writing a few trite paragraphs about their dream of smoking a Cuban cigar, they are entitled to receive free money. But I recognize that this is taking it a bit too personally. Everyone can make a GoFundMe page, after all.
But the question is, should they? I don’t think so. For one thing, they’re so easy to make that it seems everyone with a car payment has one. I doubt GoFundMe’s popularity will do anything but increase in the foreseeable future, and as it does people will become inoculated to them. Just as our eyes slip right over all of the Buzzfeed quizzes in our news feeds, so too will they ignore the outstretched electronic palms of GoFundMe pages.
This is unfortunate because there are some legitimately worthy causes on the site. For example, some of the pages ask for donations to fund cancer treatments. The vast majority, however, are inane, which I’ll address in a moment.
But secondly, it’s funny to me that people bother posting their GoFundMe pages to their Facebook walls at all. So much of the time the only donors are the poster’s relatives, which makes sense. Not only are most adults nostalgic for their college years and so willing to part with some cash to help their favorite niece/granddaughter/twice removed step cousin, they also have the wherewithal to do so.
This is unlike most of my Facebook friends, who are college students with their own lives to pay for. So the social media aspect is superfluous; people would do far better by simply emailing their family members directly with a request for financial assistance. That’s a much more targeted, straightforward approach.
I imagine most people don’t take this path because then they couldn’t hide behind the impersonality of a GoFundMe page. If they post to their Facebook they never have to face the prospect of being rejected because they never actually asked anyone, personally, for money.
I don’t want to participate in all of the millennial hate that’s already out there, but the popularity of GoFundMe is in line with the trend towards impersonal, risk-free interactions.
Truly, GoFundMe is the laziest of the online fundraisers. At least on Kickstarter the person asking for donations promises something in return, while the recipients at Kiva have to pay their money back! Neither of those things, which exist to keep the recipient honest to their stated purpose, is present on GoFundMe.
But the biggest difference between GoFundMe and Kickstarter or Kiva is that the latter websites are project-based. All of their profiles describe an outcome that would only be achievable with the help of donations. This is not so on GoFundMe, which describes itself as “perfect for personal causes and life events.”
How very privileged-white-kid of us to think it totally normal that we expect a handout, no strings attached, the moment we decide we want to backpack through Europe.
GoFundMe is the lazy man’s electronic begging, and I only hope it gives out under the weight of its own frivolity sooner rather than later.