We’ve all seen people online begging for PayPal donations or cash in the mail or for people to buy some product from them . . . not because the product is good or because they are working for a charity, but just because they claim to need money. Some say they need money for medical care or to pay a debt or to make rent or because their boyfriend dumped them or to move or to buy new furniture or purchase dog food for their pricey purebred or get school books or whatever.
Sometimes people probably are having a bad time and such things help, but it strikes me that more often the cyberpanhandlers tend to be people living in high end neighborhoods, rolling in luxury cars, and just suffering from a combination of poor self-esteem and/or poor financial planning. It is like they are saying, “please show you love me with some money.”
I used to really feel for sad tales I saw on the internet, especially if I had met the people in person at some point, but time after time, I discovered that cyber-beggars were often better off than the people they panhandled from. I admit that, now, when I see someone posting about how their life is so hard that everyone who reads their Twitter feed should PayPal them a dollar, it pretty much makes blood spurt out my ears. When I have a hard time, I try not to make it everyone else’s problem. My problem is my problem. And pretty much everyone has problems sometimes. If Person X is asking for free resources from Person Z, there is the assumption that Person Z must have more than Person X, because that is kind of how charity normally works. But, with cyberpandhandling, that is often not the case at all. I have seen multiple people who own around a million dollars worth of property asking for donations from the artistic community.
I think the constant online barrage of other people’s digital pain, including the pain of strangers, is leading to the decrease in empathy many social science researchers are reporting. After you have seen the zillionth person posting about their trials and tribulations, does your heart go out to them less than the first time you saw someone sad posted by a stranger? What do you think of cyberpanhandling or cyber-begging?