Why Charity Shouldn't Be A Pawn In Our Shallow Game Of Social Vanity

First we had #NoMakeUpSelfie, now we've got #WakeUpCall. Is it time we addressed how vanity is affection society's perception of charity?
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I haven’t had much attention this October. Nobody’s heralded me as a hero and I’ve only had one or two rounds of applause when I walk down the street. I ought to do something to garner some more positive attention…oh…hold on… #WakeUpCall... brilliant! What charity is it for? Oh it’s something to do with Syria I think, or some country with an S in its name. Sorry I’m just playing with the filters on this picture of myself. Do you think my hair is messy enough? It needs to look like I’ve just woken up, but, you know, in a hot way.

Yes, it’s another one of these. People saving the world again with their faces. This follows on from the #nomakeupselfie and ice bucket challenge. I didn’t mind the ice bucket challenge so much because I’ve obviously no objection to campaigns that raise awareness of a charity, and the ice bucket challenge did this without the narcissistic, self-congratulatory smothering of smugness that dribbled all over the #nomakeupselfie campaign and is being liberally applied in the #WakeUpCall one too.

Oh, for those who haven’t seen it yet, the premise of #WakeUpCall is that you take a picture OF YOUSRSELF after having ‘just woken up’. Then you nominate some other noble and wonderful person to donate and upload their picture. Offerings include this one from Naomi Campbell in which she is definitely not wearing make-up. Definitely not. She just naturally looks sort of smouldering and intense like that in the morning.

Jesus Christ Naomi, you’re wearing jewellery. At least attempt to keep up the pretence that this is about charity.


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The campaign was started to “help wake people up to the crisis for Syrian children”. Hold on... is there bad stuff going on in Syria at the moment? Because I don’t think the media has covered it. Thank you wise, all-knowing altruistic celebrity for opening my non-famous, ignorant eyes to the world around me.

P.s you look awesome in the morning! You’re just so great!

Now obviously giving to charity is great, but how about doing it without the righteous self-promotion? What happened to just being humbly and quietly generous? Why do we all need instant gratification from everything we do now?

Now, credit where it’s due, whoever comes up with these campaigns deserves a firm pat on the back because they’ve designed a campaign that’ll surely raise loads of money - and in that respect perhaps I’m just being a bit of a dick when I say that I find it distasteful. But it seems to me that this is a sort of heartless, vacuous style of giving where the issue isn’t really the point. This kind of campaign plays on some slightly dubious cultural trends – the first being this whole selfie thing, where self-esteem is bolstered by repeatedly portraying a visually perfect but also holier-than-thou image of ourselves and feeding off the adulation it evokes. The opportunity to upload a picture of yourself looking ‘rough’ after having just woken up (but actually filtered and very intentionally tousled) is designed to elicit an admiring response - you just wake up looking awesome naturally! YOU’RE SO LUCKY! – But nobody can accuse you of narcissism because even though you have this great natural morning look going on you’re actually only doing it for charity! You’re such a terrific person who totally gives to charity all the time, probably! And must really care about things and stuff! Hey everyone! Giving to charity here! Everyone notice me!

The second bad taste in the mouth that these campaigns leave is the way they build an ‘in-crowd’ or trend mentality around giving to charity. Those that give are doing so because they’ve been nominated and have to be seen to be partaking in charitable acts. You need to be seen to be nominated, and seen to be involved all over social media. Participants’ thoughts aren’t chiefly about the issue at hand, they’re about being nominated and who they’re going to nominate next. The problem I have is with the surface-deep nature of this behaviour. It’s hard not to think that we’re becoming a society where we’re obsessed with the appearance of everything - a vain, shallow image-led society - where style trumps substance to the point where substance isn’t even considered. This new style of philanthropy seems flimsy and soulless to me. At no point does it include a thoughtful look into anything; people just chuck £5 at it and then move on to the next trending issue. ‘So that’s Syrian kids sorted, what’s next?’

Donate to the campaign, but do it because you want to give to charity, not because the cool kids are all doing it right now. And please don’t upload a pouting ‘just woken up’ picture. It doesn’t help. It’s gross and you suck.

I have an idea for the next campaign, it’s called ‘#QuietlyAndThoughtfullyResearchCharitiesThatUndertakeWorkThatActivelyInterestsYouAndAndHumblyDonateToThemWhenAndWhereYouCan’. First rule of this campaign – don’t talk about this campaign.

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