Crowdsourcing Kindness
Make no mistake, trolls, scammers, and mischief makers are pillars of the Internet. But there's a yang to their needling yin: nice, kind people whose $5 acts of throwaway empathy occasionally add up to, say, $600,000 for a harassed 68-year-old bus monitor. The hunger for lulz might have motivated middle schoolers to post a video online of their harassment of Karen Klein, but then that same video in a different venue prompted online Samaritans to answer in force--in a move that either set her up for life or deeply complicated it (one imagines the trolls and do-gooders currently jockeying for position). But Karen The Bus Monitor is hardy the first instance of Net niceness. Here's a look at hers and other amazing stories of regular people whose warm fuzzies have helped balance all that anonymous schmuckery.
Karen Klein Goes On Vacation
When the video of a grandmotherly bus monitor being bullied by her teen and tween wards got out, the Internet stepped up to her rescue. Toronto resident Max Sidorov (of course he's Canadian!) set up an IndieGoGo campaign to Give Karen--The bus monitor--H Klein A Vacation. In 48 hours, the site raised more than $500,000 dollars in funding from over 24,000 funders, 100 times the target of $5,000. Also, more than 6,000 people signed a Change.org petition to Barack Obama to waive Klein's income tax on that chunk of change.
"Bearlove Good. Cancer Bad."
When a website pilfered and posted "The Oatmeal" creator Matthew Inman's web comics without attribution, Inman answered with a scathing comic about the perpetrator, FunkyJunk. A year later, FunkyJunk returned, threatening to file a federal lawsuit unless Inman paid $20,000 in damages. An irate Inman posted a web comic in response, and decided he would raise that $20,000--but send the proceeds to the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society instead. The Internet world, in which Inman is generally well liked, satisfied his request in 64 minutes. Today, with two days of the campaign still remaining, Inman's "BearLove Good. Cancer Bad" IndieGogo page has racked up $210,294. Inman says he is adding two more charities to the list.
About An Abortion
Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor at BoingBoing, wrote a stirring blog post last week, sharing her thoughts and disappointment at a looming miscarriage and impending abortion. Her post ricocheted through Twitter and brought out an outpouring of responses from known and unknown Twitterers as well as scores of comments (260, before comments were closed) on the BoingBoing page. The conversations she's been having with the Internet, Koerth-Baker tweeted, has helped some: "Thank you to everyone who has offered their support and shared their stories. This has been so important to me." She followed that with: "Internet, I <3 you."
Xeni Jardin's Moving Tweets
Xeni Jardin, another BoingBoing editor and a cofounder of the site, was tweeting from a hospital visit for her first mammogram when she discovered she had cancer. A week later, she posted a touching blog post about confronting difficult questions and a tough future facing the disease. The Internet responded with a wave of support on her blog page, posting 599 comments, mostly encouraging. Jardin continues to tweet about her daily experiences challenging the condition.
Mike Block Only Wants 9 Teeth
Musician Mike Block was crossing the street in Manhattan one day when he was hit by a cab, knocking out 9 teeth and damaging his jaw. To pay off his medical expenses running up to $70,000 (he was uninsured) and to get dental work done, the singer started an IndieGogo campaign six months ago. He offered music lessons, house concerts, custom songs, and more in exchange for help paying just a chunk of his medical bills: $17,000. He raised the money in 24 hours, and $48,001 by the time his campaign ended. Block got his dental work completed in February, and his new album, originally titled Tooth (but later renamed Brick By Brick) is now complete and is slated for release this fall.
A Banana Split For Ryan Roberts
In early June, 21-month old cutie Ryan Roberts was given only weeks to live because of congenital heart defect, so a friend set up a Facebook page to help spread his parents' final message. "Their one wish for their son Ryan is for everyone to have a banana split for dinner, because Ryan will never get the chance to have one," the event's co-organizers wrote on the event page. "They just want us to do something with our children so they can remember and just have fun!!! So I am throwing Ryan his very own Banana Split Party." The event was set up on Facebook on June 7, and has almost 50,000 people "attending" so far. It seems to have cheered up Ryan's parents: "To see all those smiles and to see those kids diving into banana splits cracks me up," Diane Roberts told TODAY Moms.
Have You Seen This Man (And His Famously Sweet 'Stash)?
When maverick movie-maker John Waters decided to hitchhike across the U.S. for a new movie "Carsick," word of his antics spread on Twitter and Instagram. He was subsequently spotted, picked up, and driven around. Waters' recognizable pencil stash certainly helped. “Pot smokers, cops, I got everybody," the Baltimore native told the New York Times. "And everybody was lovely.”
Aidan Has A Posse
When Aidan Jack Seeger, 6, was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) a terminal disorder, his parents had never heard of the disease that was killing their son. Following his diagnosis in June last year, they put up a website and a Facebook page to spread awareness of the rare condition and petitioned to make it mandatory to screen newborns at birth. Aidan's story and the blog, Aidan Has A Posse, had a considerable viral moment on the Internet, then made it off the web and back into the real world--into posters, banners, billboards, artwork, and an art auction in New York City. Sadly, Aidan died on April 29 this year, but his memory lives on, in part because of the outpouring of Internet-driven support.