Whisper it, but our man Martin Saunders inadvertently created an Internet phenomenon last week. The fundraising efforts and sheer big-heartedness of his oldest son Joel (6) took Twitter by storm, and to date more than £5,000 has been raised for Tearfund.
As life-affirming as this was, an interesting sub-plot appeared towards the end of the weekend. The generosity of those that donated was apparent, but what soon became clear was the disparity in the number of tweets about it (thousands), and the number of individual donations (around 300). Which got me thinking: how much value are people giving to their tweet, and their social media presence as a whole?
Yes, for some people, in these tightest of economic times, a donation is beyond the available means, and my intention is not to have a pop at them. But there's something else at play here – the idea that for some people, their mention, retweet or status update is seen as enough. As a huge fan of Twitter, it pains me to say this, but social media (probably) isn't going to change the world. It can do some good, but it won't get rid of poverty, stop wars or cure diseases. This isn't the first time that social media gestures have been seen as doing one's bit. It seemed like you couldn't poke someone a couple of years ago without somebody's profile picture changing in support of a good cause. Call me a cynic if you like, but I don't see what difference that makes at all; tweeting a link to a fundraising site might raise some money, even if it's not yours. Changing one's profile picture suggests only that this cause is more important than your immaculately edited face.
I do not doubt the heart of those people who faithfully share good stories, charities or fundraising opportunities whenever they appear on their timeline. But folks, wake up. Your online presence is not so important that a tweet or status update in themselves translate into a cash value.
And thus, to chuck a sneaky bit of Bible in to ram the point home, John was fairly clear on this, 'Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth' (1 John 3:18). To paraphrase, 'Dear children, let us not love with retweets and the like, but with actions and wallets.'
If you wish to sponsor young Joel Saunders click here.