#Donate: If the single most characteristic feature of the 21st century was chosen, social media would definitely be among the forerunners for the title. In the past decade especially, the advent of social media has taken over our lives. From MySpace to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et cetera, the world of social media has become grown exceptionally.

The takeover by social networking sites and apps is generally taken in a negative context. There is always a never-ending stream of criticisms directed at the virtual world. The critics often propagate the notion of social media desensitizing people to the real world problems. These arguments, while not entirely untrue, completely disregard social media’s potential for positive impact, if used wisely.

Recently, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign received much media frenzy. It was also successful in raising awareness as well as donations for its cause. The “tagging” process, such as #Donate, through social media websites led to a massive campaign, which also involved many celebrities.

Popular Facebook page “Humans of New York” managed to raise $1.2 million in a campaign for an inner-city school. The catalyst-a viral photograph of an inspiring middle school boy.

A photograph of a Filipino boy doing his homework under the light of a McDonald’s restaurant posted on Facebook went viral, as it was shared almost 7,000 times. The significant number of people interested in contributing to the boy’s education led to the establishment of an online fundraising campaign. The campaign generated enough funds to cover nine-year old Daniel up till college.

These stories, and many more like these, establish the significance of social media in modern world activism. The creation of social media websites has enabled an unprecedented platform to create awareness for the issues in the world. Pages like GoFundMe or Network For Good allow for anyone and everyone to start fundraising campaigns for a cause they hold near and dear.

In the fast world of social media however, fundraising can sometimes become a challenge as well. The campaigns like the ALS fundraiser require the donor to go to a separate website and then donate. As easy as it is to type a web address and make a few simple clicks, it is still somewhat of a hassle for social media users. Mostly attuned to “liking” or commenting on statuses, the process of redirecting to other websites can be annoying for the users.

This has given rise to “slacktivism”—where “activists” on social networking websites become slackers in actual donation process. In the ALS campaign, for example, the donors were far outnumbered by the people who shared the videos.

To assist the users in donating quickly and efficiently, a Washington DC-based startup Good World has come up with an innovative idea. They partner with a network of nonprofit charities. Users need a one-time signup for Good World to contribute to any charity of their choice within their network. To donate, the users simply need a hashtag of donation and their choice of amount of contribution typed into the comments section.

The system of commenting also simplifies the process of further promoting the campaign. Instead of having to “share” their donation through separate websites, the comment can be directly viewed by the user’s friends. This also gives them a faster way to make a contribution by simply commenting on the thread. The web service also forwards tax-deductible receipts to the registered email address.

The service has certain caveats: almost five percent of the donated amount is automatically deducted to fund the technology itself. There is also a 2.2 percent processing fee associated with the service. The additional charges may serve to distance some users.

In spite of the challenges, Good World is a valuable innovation in ensuring our technology remains up to speed with our generosity.

– Atifah Safi

Sources: Good World, Wall Street Journal, Daily Mail, PBS, Washington Business Journal
Photo: The Guardian

photographing poverty
With the recent announcement of Brandon Stanton’s (Humans of New York) 11 country United Nations Global Tour, the power of photography and photographing poverty has become a topic of discussion.

Often international charities use pictures of ill children in order to garner sympathy and donations, but is this the proper way to illustrate the lives of these people? In many ways, by photographing the most at risk, usually the most empathetic women and children, photographers minimize the spectrum of people shown and the dialogue produced.

While many photographers are well-meaning, the photographs highlighting illness or famine dis-empower the subjects. The pictures only show a second in their lives and disregard other circumstances.

Of course, these pictures are often the call to action that many people need. With the visuals of the effects of malnutrition and stunted growth, people are more likely to donate than they would be just seeing words alone. Motivated by the faces of young children and poor women, people tend to donate to the international charities.

Many of the pictures are staged so that the subject appears as poor and at risk as possible. Of course, these pictures dubbed as “poverty porn” are not reflective of all of the afflicted demographics, nor of all their needs.

Usually, context or back stories are absent. Instead, these pictures stand alone and are meant to speak for themselves. Contrary to many other photographers, however, Stanton generally interviews his subjects and delves into their past. Having already traveled to two of the eleven countries on his list (Jordan and Iraq), Stanton’s pictures demonstrate the various walks of life and the circumstances behind them.

Instead of just showing a tragic picture, Stanton’s captioned photos create a dialogue surrounding poverty, illness and aid. Instead of telling people what is needed and to whom they should donate, Stanton’s photography empowers the subjects and offers a microphone to ask for what they need.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Unite for Sight, Humans New York
Photo: BigStory

humans of new york
Supported by the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, photographer and founder of Humans of New York Brandon Stanton has taken his portrait project to a global scale.

Stanton will be photographing people in ten different countries and says that, “It would be rather foolish to claim that these portraits and stories somehow represent ‘the world’ or humanity as a whole. The point of the trip is not to ‘say’ anything about the world. But rather to visit some far away places, and listen to as many people as possible.”

Stanton explains that one of the main objectives of the tour is to raise awareness and prompt action to complete the Millennium Development Goals, to be accomplished by 2015. The Millennium Development Goals include the following:


To eradicate extreme hunger and poverty


To achieve universal primary education


To promote gender equality and empower women


To reduce child mortality


To improve maternal health


To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases


To ensure environmental sustainability


To enhance and increase global partnership for development

Stanton began his journey in Iraq and has since traveled to Jordan. He will venture next to the Democratic Republic of Congo, then travel to Kenya and then his trip will lead him to Uganda. His only stop in Europe will be in Ukraine. He will then go to India, following which he will be in Vietnam, and then he will photograph in Ecuador. His last stop as of now is in the Amazon – but at the end of the tour, if he has the time and resources, he will go to photograph in El Salvador.

Stanton remarked on the Humans of New York website that on his trip, “In addition to telling stories of individuals, we hope this trip may in some way help to inspire a global perspective, while bringing awareness to the challenges that we all need to tackle together.”

-Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: United Nations, Humans of New York, ABC
Photo: The Epoch Times