Friday, March 7, 2014

Charitable Viral Videos: Noble or Boastful?

A trend that is starting to catch fire on the interwebs are viral video pranksters going off the beaten path and showing off their charitable side by recording a video of them either helping out the homeless with a makeover, some money, groceries etc. 

Popular Youtubers like Vitalyzd, FouseyTube, MagicofRahat are just a few of those folks. Look at this recent video just released of MagicofRahat giving a homeless man a fake lottery ticket and following him to go cash his winnings.

The heartwarming video above I must admit brought tears to my eyes. These videos are usually very inspirational and emotional. It's no surprise videos like these go viral because it's not common for charitable acts to be seen up close and personal from a third person perspective. The majority of folks appreciate the random acts of kindness but others expose a different side, one that is usually disliked or overlooked. I'm talking about comments such as these:

Emotional porn? That's a new one.

While I do respect and appreciate the ultra-kind gesture that MagicofRahat and others like him did, detractors do raise a valid point and it is the reason why openly giving charity is kind of a slippery slope. You try to do something nice but when you publicize it, you're bound to get responses such as this and accusations of being a hypocrite, self-righteous and exploitative. 

It's a tough situation to be in especially if your intentions are to inspire others, raise awareness or get people reach into their pockets and give a little more. 

I don't think MagicofRahat or those like him are trying to say "Look at me, I'm a good person!". And as for those who say they are benefiting financially by having these videos go viral, while it may be true it's merely complimentary. They were getting PAID with their viral prank and comedy videos long before releasing videos of their noble deeds.

 I feel they are merely giving back because if it wasn't for all the views and subscriptions and support people gave them, they probably wouldn't have the income and fame to put them in a position to give like they do in those videos.

Being charitable or doing any good deed does trigger a response in our brain which emits a warm satisfied feeling within us and for some people it can be a drug. They want people to know about their kind act and be recognized and put that dopamine-induced pleasure their brain gets into hyperdrive. I know in the past when I have done something charitable and I feel all virtuous and whatnot, one of the first things part of me feels like doing is letting the world know. I feel like tooting my own horn and shouting "Look what I did, what have you done lately?"

 I learned real fast that not only does it make you come off like a jerk and a hypocrite, but it's a dangerous line to cross because you're pretty much removing any credit you were to receive by Allah because you're seeking praise of others. I'd much rather have Allah's reward than a "Cool story,bro!" from my peers.

Situations like this really gives you a better understanding of the phrase that both the Qur'an and the Bible mention: giving charity in such a way that your left hand doesn't know what your right hand is doing. It's much more respectable being the anonymous donor; the guy who swoops in, saves the day and just disappears into the night before anyone can ask for his name. It's why superheroes are superheroes.

If Superman was a real person and started spouting off all the times he saved the world from utter destruction, stropped that schoolbus full of children from falling off a cliff and the countless other acts he's done, we'd all be calling him an A-hole. If Spiderman took every opportunity to show folks a highlight reel of all the cool heroic crap he's done over the years, we'd all be throwing tomatoes at him (though he'd successfully dodge them all and wrap us up in his websling).

Whatever, dude.

 The best way I can conclude are with reminders given from the Qur'an:
If you give charity openly, that is good. But if you keep it secret, and give it to the needy in private, that is better for you. It will atone for some of your misdeeds. God is cognizant of what you do. (2:271).
O you who believe! Do not cancel out your charitable deeds by reminding others of your him who spends his wealth to be seen by the people (2:264)