THE OTHER day, a friend of mine asked me if he should be considered insensitive because he had deleted almost all Facebook posts flooding his wall which read, “HELP the people in Haiti now!” In response, I told him there was nothing wrong as long as he a “donates” by clicking, oblivious of whether the act can actually help a single Haiti victim or not.

With the advent of new technology, the act of helping others miles away has become a lot easier. Extending help might not be a problem for big companies and highly affluent people who have more than enough to give, but what about ordinary people who would also like to give a hand?

In Facebook alone, about a thousand “Causes” applications have already been created, with the computer-savvy generation promoting it to the people in their network. But while many have joined the bandwagon, some consider the act futile. How can one genuinely help by merely clicking a box with the mouse pointer? Why would a finger exercise be tantamount to such a noble action, anyway?

In reality, the act of “clicking” sets off a complicated process that ends in a charitable act. Therainforestsite.com describes how the process of “clicking to help” works: “when you click, we display ads from our site sponsors. 100 percent of the money from these advertisers goes to our charity partners, who fund programs to protect and preserve rainforest habitat. Our store gives a portion of every purchase to our charity partners.”

Co-founders of the cause Sean Parker and John Green promote what they call “equal opportunity activism” through “leveling the playing field by empowering individuals to change the world.” True enough, reports show that many charity sites, including Facebook Causes, help raise funds in cooperation with other international organizations. Just three days after the magnitude-seven Haiti earthquake last January 12, Red Cross has already raised about $35 million, with more than half of the donations coming from “online clicks,” and the remaining through short message service.

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Dichotomies

But how do online users identify which among the hundreds of applications are legitimate fund-raising organization, and are just another sick scams?

According to insidefacebook.com, anybody in Facebook can join and create a cause, promote it, and “most importantly, raise money directly through the cause for any US registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit or Canadian registered charity.”

Because of this, critical thinking must be employed upon deciding to extend help online, especially with so many “causes applications” being vague in their goals. I browsed through the web and found a complaint from a user who joined a cause called “Progressive Pipeline,” which primarily aims to link tech-savvy college activists and progressive organizations in the US. However, the complainant said that the cause do not offer links to relevant external websites where one can inquire further. Also, “…there is no wall or other social area on the Cause homepage where I can talk to others in the group… And the 501c3 through which donations are funneled is basically a blank web page,” the complainant added.

Without basis on the legitimacy of cause sites and applications claiming to be stewards of charity, extending organized kindness online is nothing but a lame act of nobility.

For the people who spend most of their time in social networking sites than in other more worthwhile activities, they achieve a small sense of fulfillment—drunk with the thought of becoming modern-day heroes with a simple click of a button.

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For our dear friend and classmate, fight strong and live strong!

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