Modern day panhandling

7cee367fd12ab81e6ccfd7ebc32d45efGoFundMe is gross. There’s the huge segment of GoFundMe campaigns that are people asking for money to pay their medical bills so they don’t die, which are gross because of what they say about American society and our nation’s values. But what’s really gross is the “I want an Apple Watch, please give me money” variety of campaigns.

Iwan Carrington wanted AirPods but he couldn’t afford them, and for most 16-year-old boys that’s where the story would end. Since their release in December 2016, Apple’s £199 wireless Bluetooth earbuds have become a status symbol among teens: after all, only the wealthy can afford tiny, untethered headphones that are so easy to lose. As an ordinary Welsh schoolboy, Carrington wasn’t rich enough to buy them, and he was growing increasingly jealous of his friend’s pair. So in January this year, he came up with a solution.

With just a few clicks on his computer, Carrington created a page on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, set a fundraising goal of £100 (he had saved the rest from Christmas), and titled it simply and honestly: “I am desperate for AirPods. Help a brother out.” The plea was simple and unvarnished: “I am like any other teenager except I would love some Apple AirPods. I was sat on the bus untangling my earphone wires and thought how great it would be to have AirPods. I ask for any help. Please.”

Yeah, Iwan, you’re a beggar, but with less dignity than a guy who lives under the freeway. Any pretense of this stuff being charity is just gone. I need money for something I don’t need but really want, so please give it to me, people of the Internet. I don’t understand how someone doesn’t feel dirty doing this.

Here’s who shouldn’t feel bad about asking for money: people who are truly poor trying to pay for basic expenses. The aforementioned medical GoFundMe people: they should be enraged that they are stuck in that situation in a country as rich as the United States. People looking for donations to support some form of creative work (they’re more likely to be on Patreon than GoFundMe though).

And when these come from kids… where are the parents? If I had pulled something like that as a kid, I think my parents would have locked me in my room until I was 18.

His mother, Abi Jenkins, who is 36 and works in the travel industry, tells me she didn’t know about her son’s plan until she got the email inviting her to donate. Was she embarrassed? “I initially thought it was a bit cheeky. But at the same time I thought, I’ve always encouraged the children to be entrepreneurial.”

That’s not what entrepreneurial means. Entrepreneurial would be starting a little business to raise the money or cutting laws or shoveling walks or raking leaves or picking up groceries for a fee like a mini-Instacart. Doing that would also be a pretty good life lesson for a teenager.

Learning how to beg online – not so much.

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