Thursday, September 6, 2012

Caring & Sharing

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.


jo said...

This is perfect! I wish I had the brain capacity to be so eloquent instead of just getting the rage with silly people.

Anonymous said...

It's a world of nonsense Dave, a very non specific comment but as such a very accurate one. Life is too short but there are enough of us to cover all the bases so don't stress over other people's feelings and that will leave more time for you to act upon your own.

Nowhere Man said...

As someone who recently asked you to RT friend's cause, I wanted to say I absolutely agree with your position on this, and apologise for adding to the daily barrage!
It's easy - when you feel passionately about something - to assume everyone else will naturally feel the same. And that if they do - they will want to spread the word. It's also easy to forget that other people have different ways of "doing good".
I asked you to RT because I respect the opinions you've expressed in your Shows, Blogs and Tweets and I think you're - on the whole - a pretty "sound" bloke. A little more effort(and a less gung-ho approach!)on my part, would have led me to your perfectly reasonable blog on this topic, and I wouldn't have bothered you.
In the end - if a cause is right - it'll find it's way into the public consciousness with or without a particular celebrity's (hate that word) endorsement.
No hard feelings - and look forward to being entertained, enthralled and perhaps enlightened by more of your words soon!

Jonathan Allford said...

All well and good Dave but when are you finally going to support my PIGS IN SPACE campaign?

Anonymous said...

That! That exact thing!

I work for a small charity and agree wholeheartedly. I see why people try to get people in the spotlight to RT but to do so agressively does actual harm to your cause.

I also usually skip past a RT'd charity tweet if the RTer hasn't added anything to it - twitter is just too busy to read everything.

Dougie Lawson said...

Good to see you're one of the celebrity tweeters who's got his head screwed on the right way. I get very bored with all the celebrity retweets for charity causes and such like.

I think your method of dealing with this stuff is 100% correct. It works for me, it works for you.

Dave Gorman said...

@Nowhere Man: I don't mind people asking so long as they don't mind me not acquiescing. It's when people ask repeatedly and don't accept no for an answer that it gets a little odd. If the causes that got the most support were simply those whose cheerleaders shouted loudest I'm not sure that would be a good thing.

UntitledFruitCo said...

Well said... I generally feel slightly akward asking people I've never met to sponsor me or support a charity I support.

I understand the need for fundraising and raising awareness of charities, especially the use of known faces and celebrities for promotion but I'm also very fond of making my own choice and decisions on what Charities I support. The charties I do support reflects the sort of person I am and where my interests lie.

Most people respect my decision when I tell them (street fundraisers, tweets etc) but sometimes the use of the hard sell tactic on me has the complete opposite effect the charity is after.

Anonymous said...


I must write anonymously because I work as an online fundraiser for a UK charity, but you are absolutely spot on!

Nothing annoys me more to see (mostly) well intentioned people tweet 'the great and the good' will all the subtlety of a machine gun begging for a RT of their 5k fun run. With no idea or thought as to whether the charities are trying to cultivate a relationship with any of their poor unfortunate targets.

And the precise monetary value of 99.9% of RTs is £0.00 - all it generates is bad feeling, aside from 0.15 seconds of fame that the person seeking a RT gets.

In the same time as it takes to spam celebs you could bake some cakes to sell at work/school; invited friends and neighbours to a charity bingo/quiz/race night or sat in a bath of baked beans - ALL of which would raise more money!

Rant over.

Anonymous said...

Just to be devils avocado for a minute:

Maybe the train of thought for the 'evangelically charitable' is that it takes a second to retweet, and costs you nothing, so why wouldn't you?..

(not a view I hold myself btw)


Dave Gorman said...

@davebakedpotato Yes. I'm sure that is the thought process. But paragraph 1 & 2 - and the link contained - specifically address that part of it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, sorry Dave, missed the link.

A good summary.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot on. I used to work for cancer charity and the events staff would sometimes push the social media and comms people to keep forcing out messages and 'get celebrities to do stuff' without a well thought out rationale or strategy. We did what we were told and cringed at the mess it made of our twitter stream and Facebook page and the damage could do to our professionalism.

Re individuals doing it, maybe more charities could offer supporters advice on how/what to do on social media in fundraising packs?

Anonymous said...

I've done a lot of fundraising work for a little known charity as well as some for a well known charity. I can see why some people would want to get an RT for their cause from a celebrity, but I don't really see the point (if that makes sense!) I see a lot of RTs from celebrities for lots of charities, all of which I am sure are well deserving. However, I tend to pass them all by because a) I cannot afford to support them and b) I have no connection to them. Like you say, most support for charities comes from those who have a link to the charity or someone doing the fund raising. The most powerful fund raising is the personal touch - it has more meaning. (Similar to my feelings about people stopping me in the street to support a charity, but that's a bit off topic!) I've never asked any celebrity for an RT and I won't be doing so in the future. I think for the majority of genuine fund raisers out there your stance is spot on.

Martin said...

Wise words, as ever. This is why, if there were such a post as Mayor of Internet, that post should be held by you.

Anonymous said...

When I first read this blog, I decided not to read your reasons for not retweeting. I've been watching your shows (once live, lucky me) for long enough to know that you like most people. Apart from the Dave Gorman from Leamington Spa. So if you weren't retweeting, you had a good reason.

But I've got insomnia and I'm bored. I thought I might as well. Of course there was a perfectly good reason. Not that I ever doubted it, you understand.