By now you have probably heard the story of Karen Klein from Greece, New York. Karen is a bus monitor at the local middle school. On a recent trip, Karen was bullied by the children that she is hired to monitor. As happens so often in the age of Youtube, the entire episode was caught on a camera phone, uploaded to the Internet, and instantly went viral (8m views and 130k comments since June 19th).
Watching this poor woman being tormented by middle school children, in this video, hit a nerve with many of us, and it reminded us how cruel children can be.
Like it has so many times in the past, the Internet has picked a cause and directed its outrage. The children have been suspended, and Karen Klein is on the talk-show circuit.
But something different happened this time. A guy named Max decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to get Karen a vacation. As of July 1st, the campaign had raised over $650,000 from more than 30,000 people, far surpassing its goal of $5,000. For the first time, the Internet is doing more than just expressing outrage, it is now also moving large amounts of money.
Is this a good thing? I don’t know. I don’t know Karen, and I don’t know Max. I find it a little condescending to just assume that this woman would want to be the target of a crowdfunding campaign, but I can’t imagine that Max’s heart isn’t in the right place. There is something crazy though about a woman getting tormented by some children and walking away with a check for over half a million dollars. That’s what worries me.
As crowdfunding starts to reach the mainstream, these are the stories that are going to shape the image that the public has of what we do. For that reason, I’m uneasy about what is going on here.
I know that crowdfunding has the potential to do mountains of good, but this isn’t it. This is the Internet trolling (as it does) and picking pet causes because they amuse us. The net result, I believe, will be that crowdfunding will be seen more as a gimmick because of it. I fear the day that someone says to me: “Oh you run a crowdfunding site? Is that like for that bus lady who was bullied?”
Again, I really don’t think anyone’s heart is in the wrong place on this one. Not the campaign manager, not IndieGogo, not the funders, and definitely not Karen (who seems to still be trying to grasp what is going on). However, I think enough is enough. Someone needs to step up and say that we have raised enough money for this cause. We should stop this while it is very noble and a little bit crazy and before it becomes very crazy and a little bit noble.
Let me hear your take in the comments.