Very early on in my Twittering I received a tweet asking me if I would re-tweet an announcement about a charitable event, I believe it was a sponsored bike ride across France. It took me 3 seconds, click re-tweet, click send. Bosh. Done. End of. Move on.
However this simple act turned out to be less than straightforward. At the time I had maybe 15,000 followers, so the person who asked me had seen that I could get this message to a few more eyeballs. The next time I checked my twitter feed I had a couple more. Same thing, Please RT, my friend is raising money for sick children. How can you not, it takes seconds as I said before. I duly obeyed.
Then I got ten such requests, then twenty, over the next week or so I must have had at least a hundred. I worried about it, I fretted and twisted myself up into a classic muddle class ball of guilt.
So I made a decision, I would either have a blanket policy of never re-tweeting any charity request, or, I would have to re-tweet them all. It’s very hard but I chose the former. I feel very guilty about it because it takes such little effort on my part. However, if I did endlessly re-tweet all of them my tweet stream would be a constant flow of charity announcements.
What it must be like for people who have millions of followers I can’t imagine. I know they don’t re-tweet them because I follow a few twitter millionaires and they don’t send thousands of re-tweets out every hour of the day.
This guilt is of course is not a new experience, just a familiar feeling in a new medium. I still get a lot of letters and requests to appear in charitable events, or sign pictures for auctions, or send books, or sponsor cross channel swimmers.
The charity industry, for that’s what it is, generates a massive amount of activity. It also generates a massive amount of money for good causes, it’s in the many billions of pounds a year in this country which says a lot about our nations generosity.
I am slightly uncomfortable with the psychology of wearing your charitable giving on your sleeve. I’m a bit Victorian about it, I don’t want to tell people who I give money to, it feels like showing off. I think it’s private.
I think it is worth considering how we raise money for charity. I believe passionately that it’s important we continue to do so. I take my hat off to the people who climbed the mountain, but what an adventure they must have had.
I can’t help thinking we could spend our time in a slightly more helpful way, killing two birds with one stone maybe. Instead of paddling a canoe down the Ganges, or walking across the USA, how about helping my sister for a week while getting sponsored. Why my sister? Well, she’s a care assistant in a hospital, she looks after terminally ill people. Her job is about as glamorous as a rainy afternoon in Wellingborough, but she works incredibly hard with total dedication. No one interviews her and asks her how she’s feeling. She is paid abysmally badly by the NHS, her job isn’t even being cut as it wouldn’t amount to any savings for the government.
So if some celeb off the telly was doing a days work in a cancer ward while raising money for children in Africa, I’d sponsor them, I’d do it quietly and without fanfare, but I’d be pretty impressed. It’s a tough gig.
One last thing. Every sentence in this piece made me ponder, I could hear the responses, the criticisms, the massive, selfish gaping holes in my argument. It makes writing a very different and interesting experience.