Has Social Media Turned Us all Into Beggars?
Has online begging become the new economy? Mark Ebner, a writer interviewed in a recent New York Times article, sure thinks so. The article, titled “GoFundMe Gone Wild” discusses the recent onslaught of social media campaigns to raise money for increasingly less worthy causes. The author of the article, Judith Newman, admits that the trend began with a focus on sincerely admirable causes, like paying medical bills for a suffering loved one or funeral expenses for a deceased relative, but she aptly notes that the campaigns have gone haywire. Facebook feeds are now filled with friends, exes, and distant cousins asking for help funding their latest kitchen renovation or their dream trip to Peru.
Wishlist.com, a locally-based website, is one company that has built a platform that does online giving right, with a narrow focus on funding the purchase of experiences instead of material things. Wishlist.com allows you to purchase or give money toward the purchase of an experience for another person. The recipient creates a Wishlist of experiences in their local area. For example, a recipient can put a Colorado rafting adventure or a brewery tour on their Wishlist, kind of like an experiential online wedding registry. Wishlist then books the chosen activity on behalf of the recipient once its gifted and paid for. The idea is that experiences give us more joy and more long-term satisfaction than things and that by only allowing people to buy you experiences, you will end up an overall happier human.
A far cry from the online begging described in Newman’s article, Wishlist doesn’t allow you to simply create a campaign and post a generic Facebook status soliciting money from thousands of followers. It allows you to select activities that are meaningful to you and to send short, personalized emails that allow a giftor to easily select a gift.
Plus, Wishlist puts its money where its mouth is by giving experiential gifts back to the community. In 2013, Wishlist donated a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway to a Lakewood, Colorado veteran and his wife. The couple was given the opportunity to select a Colorado adventure experience so that their reunion after deployment was an even more memorable one. According to Wishlist, “experiences are what matter in life” and memories will always outlive objects. I think they’re on to something.