I've written before about why I don't retweet requests for charitable retweets so I won't rehash the same thing all over again - you can see what I said about it a couple of years ago here if you're interested. (The numbers have increased since then, but my feelings remain the same).
I promise you it's not because I'm a misanthropic, charity-hater who's too lazy to click a button and do some good. Far from it. In fact, quite the reverse.
But I wanted to add a new post on the topic because something seems to have changed with twitter recently. Or at least with how I'm experiencing twitter.
I've left it a little while to blog this and I hope to pick my words carefully so that nobody is identified or identifiable. I don't want anyone to go looking for those that have stirred these thoughts, that's not really important.
The thing is, there are thousands of good causes; charities and campaigns that could do with more support. Of course there are. And not one of us supports them all. I don't. You don't. It's not possible. So how do we choose? Most of us sponsor our friends when they do a run/walk/swim/cycle/whatever and most of us support other things that we feel particularly connected to or moved by for one reason or another. But none of us proactively backs every single good cause.
But recently I seem to be encountering people who are increasingly strident in the way they campaign on twitter. I'm not sure what's motivating it. But I am sure I don't like it. One group of students who asked me to retweet their fundraising page came back a few days later to tell me that they were now "keeping a list" of all the people they'd asked who had not retweeted it and that they were going to "name and shame" those who were not helping.
Which is, of course, ridiculous. Because I could just as easily name and shame them for not supporting a whole host of other, equally-deserving causes. You can't play Top Trumps with this stuff: your caring isn't worth more than my caring and my caring isn't worth more than yours. It's not fair to decide that your cause is the one and that all others are irrelevant.
Someone else emailed a few weeks ago to ask why I had not retweeted any of the many requests they'd sent me. (They had asked me at least 3 times a day for a week and by the looks of it they had asked a couple of hundred other people with the same frequency too - I wonder if any of them got similar emails?)
I replied explaining why I hadn't done so - in the same terms as contained in that earlier blogpost - and said I hoped they understood.
They did not understand.
As far as they were concerned it was a simple, binary equation. I should support their cause and if I didn't do so - on twitter, via their particular fundraising endeavour - it was evidence that I didn't care for other people. All other people.
These are two examples in which people have specifically addressed me but I've seen four or five instances recently where people are taking a similar approach with others. I don't really understand where it's coming from.
I understand that when you're campaigning for a particular cause, tunnel vision can set in, but I think twitter is somehow intensifying it for some. There is a strange idea afoot that twitter is the be all and end all, that a thought only exists if it has been expressed on twitter. A few months ago, after the untimely passing of a celebrity I was taken to task by someone because I did not tweet a message of condolence.
Don't misunderstand me, they weren't having a go at me for tweeting something snide or unpleasant. My crime - such as it was - was to not mention them at all. Why would I? I didn't know the deceased. They weren't even in my DVD or CD collection. "Was I sorry to hear about their passing?" my interrogator wanted to know. Yes. Yes, I suppose I was. But not more sorry than when I hear about any other stranger's passing. How famous do they have to be for an RIP tweet to be obligatory? What are the rules?
When I meet someone new I don't assume they're a racist until they specifically mention that they're not. And I doubt that angry twitter correspondent does either. If we don't need every thought to be expressed when we're off twitter why would we need it to be so when we're on it?
How about we all assume that we're all broadly in support of one another's good causes and accept that if we all proactively pushed all of them... it wouldn't actually do more good, it would just make things more confusing. More noise. Less clarity.
Now... if a friend of yours is doing something for a good cause and you haven't already donated, why not go and do so. You'll feel better for it. If none of your friends are doing such a thing but you have the money to spare, pick a charity and donate to that. Pick the one you think will do the most good if you think that's possible. If not, just pick the one that appeals most. Google it. Find their page. Think about sending them a few quid.