Digital to bridge the divide

Recently, President Barack Obama announced that two former presidents are spearheading a campaign to raise money for Haiti. Around the same time, but thousands of miles away, a couple of UAF students joined forces to start their own fundraising effort. And somewhere else, someone posted a new Facebook status: “text the word “haiti” to 90999 and $10 will automatically be added to your phone bill- the money goes directly to the Red Cross and its efforts in Haiti.”

That status went viral, and it has been popping up on my News Feed every so often over the last few days. Bill Clinton and George Bush might be powerful fundraisers, but so is the power of Facebook. According to the numbers available on January 18, the Red Cross had raised more than $10 million via text messages alone. The Red Cross isn’t the only organization fundraising with $10 texts. Even the Clinton Bush Haiti fund is onboard. And the Red Cross isn’t the only organization using Facebook to get the word out. “Help Haiti Fairbanks” also keeps popping up in my News Feed, and I’m sure that at schools all over the country, fundraisers are being planned with much help from the social networking site.

I also read a conversation on Facebook (prompted by a different status) about whether or not the U.S. government should be sending aid to Haiti, or focusing our resources on the problems within our country. But I think the aid is worthwhile for many reasons. If we can spend money on war, I hope we can spend money on peace. If we can spend money to rebuild banks, I hope we can spend money to rebuild houses. If we can spend money on Women, Infants and Children in America, I hope we can spend money on our neighbors.

It’s easy to get caught up in all those messages, both the ones I agree with and the ones I don’t, and to be excited about technology’s role in our world. But it also reminds me of why anyone is worried about Haiti. Clinton summed it up when he said that such a disaster “reminds us of our common humanity.”

If the disaster reminds us of what we share, our technology-driven response should also remind us of our differences. I am grateful for the Internet connection that gives me access to Facebook and e-mail and news from thousands of sources so that I know what is happening in the world. More than that, I am thankful that I have those things to be grateful for and thankful that my basic needs are taken care of without very much thought at all.

I hope our common humanity inspires us to help one another, and our relative wealth reminds us of the abundance we have to give. We have enough to help Haiti and to help ourselves, to help the homeless both here and there.

~Molly Dischner

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6 Responses

  1. Ah yes, Lynne would be referring to “Slacktivism”. You know, wearing a bracelet to support “Kittens in Nepal” or a sticker on your car saying to “Support the Troops”. Showing you care enough to do the very least. The internet is an amazingly powerful tool, but it can make us lazy and complacent if we’re careless.

  2. Lynne Snifka says:

    My biggest fear is that when people do a Facebook status update about Haiti, they think they are *actually* doing something about the situation in Haiti. Far from it, and a little complacency can go a long way. That said, Molly: get your name on the TOP of this post. (Or maybe I should be saying that to you, Tom?)

  3. Facebook User says:

    I definitely agree that it can lead to complacency, but I think in the instances I’ve mentioned it was actually fairly useful – it’s helped people who were planning a fundraiser communicate with each other (“Help Haiti Fairbanks” is a group, which wasn’t very clear in this…), and has been a cheap, quick way for the Red Cross to fund raise. That said, I really don’t think much of the status updates that are people thinking about Haiti or whatever, and that’s probably more prevalent than the people using it to accomplish something.

  4. The person above was me – I’m not sure why it doesn’t show up anymore…

  5. admin says:

    Molly, it shows up for me still. It had you logged in through Facebook.

  6. Yeah – I think you have to be logged into facebook to see who it’s from.

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