I was perusing Twitter the other day, as I often am doing because my brain is diseased, and a writer I’m a fan of had posted a GoFundMe link in the timeline for a friend of theirs suffering after a life-changing car accident. I’ll spare the details, but the gist: she’d been injured, hospitalized, and now was staring at medical bills that she had no means to pay for. I clicked it and gave her $10, and then went about my day feeling like I’d made a real difference. And really, isn’t that what charity is about: making ourselves feel like we’re doing something good?
The above scenario probably sounds familiar to you if you’ve spent any time on social media in the past year or two. Crowdfunding started as a platform for entrepreneurs and entertainers to get the funding necessary for their creative endeavors. Kickstarter was littered with new board games, video games, movie ideas, products, and the like. Buy-in early, get a reward and help an entrepreneurial spirit get their idea off the ground.
Since then, crowdfunding has taken a much different turn. Instead of entrepreneurs begging for funding, it has become a platform more commonly associated with normal everyday people asking for help. Search the popular crowdfunding website GoFundMe for the term “medical” and it yields over 3 million results. People who have been in accidents that need to cover their medical bills or face a lifetime of debt. People who need insulin and can’t afford it. People who need surgery but are terrified of the costs. They’re logging on, creating campaigns, and asking people to pitch in so that they can afford to live a normal life, despite the hardships they’re facing.
It’s dark stuff, to me. A dystopian nightmare where we exist in a society that doesn’t provide basic needs for its people, forcing them to beg strangers for money so that they can just afford the luxury of being alive. But, that’s my bias, and I’m always willing to hear other perspectives. One common perspective I hear on the other side is that it’s actually inspiring: communities coming together to help those in need and provide charity, proving that we as Americans care for one another.
I wasn’t convinced. So, I asked a bunch of other people.
Sad wins by a landslide, which at least confirms I’m not crazy for thinking it’s kind of dark. But a dive into the who, what, and why makes it a bit more interesting than just the topline numbers.
As it turns out, the healthier you are, the more likely you are to think it’s inspiring. People who have been to a doctor less than twice in the last year are more likely to think it’s inspiring, as are those who are not overweight or rate their current health as “very healthy.” On the other hand, if you’ve been to a doctor 5+ times in the last year or you have “more than one” doctor you think of as your primary doctor (indicating you’re likely seeing at least 1 specialist), you’re far more likely to think it’s sad.
Turns out, if you’re staring down the barrel of a chronic condition and unsure what your medical bills are going to look like 12 months from now, you’re less likely to feel a “rah-rah” sense of community around the fact that you might need to beg for cash to fund your treatments.
Affluence plays a big role, too. Those who pay for their own health insurance (a significantly more affluent group than other ways of being insured) are more likely to find it inspiring than those who are uninsured, on government assistance, or a combination of coverages.
In all of these instances, however, it’s worth noting that it’s still predominantly viewed as a sad state of affairs. An economic and health coverage system that requires the neediest of us to beg for help online is one that doesn’t sit well with the average person. Want the most obvious proof yet?
Conservatives and liberals, who are currently unable to agree on the color of the sky, mostly agree on this. Sure, conservatives are more likely than liberals to think it’s inspiring, and the severity of their concern is much different, but half of them think it’s more sad overall. It’s worth noting here that 1 in 3 conservatives had never heard of this, which may explain why the severity differs between the concern level.
If these two groups are on the same page, something is broken. We’ve written before about how health insurance costs are impacting daily decisions in the consumer economy, and it doesn’t look like that’s changed much. Now it looks like we’re seeing the ramifications from that: people are upset about it, regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on. Odds are pretty good that they wouldn’t agree on the resolution to the issue, but a solid starting place is agreeing that there’s an issue in the first place.
In the meantime, I’m just going to keep tossing $10 toward a deserving GoFundMe every now and again, while hoping for a future where that’s no longer necessary.