One of this week’s top stories has been about Jeremy Meeks. If you happened to miss his name, he’s the guy whose dreamy blue eyes convinced women to make his mug shot go viral. Thousands were so enthralled with his looks that the facts behind his arrest didn’t seem to matter. While I’ll admit, he’s got that bad boy charm going for him, what really amazes me is that not only have people made him famous from getting arrested for a concealed weapon (betcha most people don’t even care what the charges were) but now he’s using that fame to raise money for his bail.
His mother’s name is attached to a “Go Fund Me” campaign that in three days has raised almost $4,000 of its 25k goal.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not passing judgement here on crowd funding in general, or on this mother doing whatever she can to help her son. As a mother, I understand unconditional love. From what I’ve read and seen on television, Meek’s mother believes that her son has turned his life around and is on the right path, so naturally, she (or someone close to her) seized the opportunity afforded her by his new-found popularity.
I also think that crowd funding is one of those things that has been born from the internet technology that is pretty cool. Heck, we’re using it to try to grow our online community for parents and caregivers of adults who have Down syndrome. We, as a society, can decide to contribute to any number of causes, for any number of reasons. But what makes a person decide to donate to one cause over another? Are women actually contributing their hard-earned money to get this man out of jail purely based on his looks?
Another story hit the news recently about a little girl who was attacked by a pit bull and was reportedly asked to leave a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant because her scars were frightening other patrons. Of course, money is involved, including $30,000 pledged by KFC for the little girl’s medical expenses. Now it is being reported that the whole thing was a hoax. The family’s Facebook page maintains that the story is true
There’s also the story of the “Blogging Mom” who has been accused of trying to get readers by poisoning her child and posting his symptoms online to elicit sympathy. At least one article is now questioning the moniker of “blogger” saying that she’s only posted to her blog twice since it was created in 2001. While this is a minor detail in the story, it’s understandable that legitimate bloggers would fear the association. The article contends that the true details of the story weren’t enough to make it go “viral” so reporters added the “Mommy Blogger” line to get more traction.
So what is it that catches our attention? What makes one tragedy more interesting than another? In our attempts to connect with the public at large during the #JusticeForEthan campaign it was pretty obvious that the only people the story (about an adult male who had Down syndrome being killed by sheriff’s deputies while being arrested for failure to leave a movie theater before the next showing) resonated with were parents and loved ones of someone who had Down syndrome.
In order raise awareness for social issues do we need to make it “sexy” enough to stand out? Are there so many issues flooding the interwebs and social media that we can’t break through without spinning the story?
Browsing the sites listed by Forbes in 2013 as “Top Crowdfunding Websites” gives you an idea of some of the projects out there that are asking the general public for help. Why does one succeed and another fail?
My 2 cents on this topic, for what it’s worth because I’m not an expert by any means, is that we’ve become a culture attracted to glitz instead of content. As I’ve been trying to grow my personal blog here, and the community over at The Road We’ve Shared, it’s been hard to balance sticking to my passion/goals and trying to get the attention of like-minded individuals. There’s so much competition out there for any story it’s a daunting task – not to mention the fact that we have to compete with people who are creating stories where none exist.
I’d love to hear your 2 cents on this issue. How do we affect change and fight for causes we truly care about in the current environment of social media and 24-hour news coverage?