We often see very public statements of good deeds whether it is celebrities posting on social media about giving more money than we’ll ever see to charities or individuals or simply a random Facebook friend posting about their charitable work building Habitat for Humanity or cleaning up their area with #trashtag.
At first glance, the most common reaction (especially in internet comments!) is that celebrities could be doing way more and random not-rich individuals are doing something great.
So, the question becomes why is it celebrated when random people do good and sneered at when celebrities do good?
The truth is that for whatever reason, we tend to hold celebrities to higher standards and expectations than our fellow non-famous brethren.
We expect more from them for no other reason than they are rich — and maybe because they live very public lives so people think they know them.
When famous people or very, very rich people donate one million dollars to help people during this pandemic or to support their favorite charities when not in a global pandemic, for some reason the public decides that they either “owe” more or that they’re only doing it to look good. To the people, to the press, it doesn’t matter. That they just want to look good and get praise.
But it’s a double-edged sword, because when major celebrities DON’T post publicly that they donated, the people push and pick at them: “You’re so rich, why aren’t you helping people right now?”
They can’t win — whether they play the game or not.
Narcissistic or Selfless?
Whether you think that random celebrities who are complete strangers to you and earn their own money “owe” more to the cause or if you think it’s great they are helping people, many seem to agree that posting about your donations online is just showing off.
Unfortunately, you cannot change people’s minds.
There will always be people who cry out in indignation when you don’t say out loud that you’re helping people — and often those same people are the ones telling you how attention-seeking those celebs are for bragging about giving away millions of dollars.
But the results are important.
When someone we admire, respect, or any other descriptor saying we look up to them or hold them to high standards posts publicly about doing good — GOOD THINGS HAPPEN.
Not only are they actually donating money to a good cause to help people, but they are also raising awareness to the charity, giving the charity exposure, and most importantly: it usually inspires others to donate, too.
In a study published in SciELO in December 2017, one of the 8 identified factors that motivate people to donate to charities was “leadership influences.”
When people we look up to donate their time or money to good causes, we pay attention. And whether that attention originates from a positive or negative place inside us, the result is the same: more money and time to people and organizations who need it.
As more celebrities give large sums of money to a crisis, to the more publicity it gets, the more we care, and the more, ultimately, we donate.
And the good that comes out of this is undeniable.
So, can it be seen as attention-seeking or narcissistic to tell others that we donated money to something?
But it also raises awareness and does good for the world.
So, ultimately, it can be a selfless act.
They say that you should do good without shouting it from the rooftops, without expecting gratitude or thanks, and without external motivation. You should do good for the sake of the greater good, not because you get anything back.
But realistically, you want your Facebook friends to think you’re a nice person. You want people to be proud of you and tell you that you’re doing a good job. You want them to think you’re “good” and noble and selfless.
And the simple act of wanting those things makes it not entirely selfless — and that’s okay!
That’s completely and totally fine and normal and human of you. And good is still being done.
But don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s okay for YOU to post about it and get accolades and feel good about it but not others just because they’re rich.
We place celebrities on pedestals inside of fishbowls and we expect more from them for no other reason than they are famous. We place them there and then expect them to be exactly who we each individually think they should be.
It’s an impossible paradox. They are no more human or good or bad than the rest of us.
No one can please everyone. We just have to move forward making our own best decisions with the information we have, right or wrong.
And if seeing Jimmy Fallon donate to Feeding America or Justin Beiber donate to Beijing Chunmiao Charity Foundation or Justin Timberlake donate to Mid-South Food Bank or Kim Kardashian donate to Baby2Baby’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Program or Rihanna donate to Direct Relief, Feeding America, Partners in Health, The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the International Rescue Committee inspires you and thousands of others to donate even a few dollars to the same organizations, then their job as “influencers” is working.
Their celebrity is working. It is calling attention to the people and organizations that need it most.
And for people online to whine about how “they could afford to give more” or denigrate or mock them for trying to do good just goes to show that the response is from a place of jealousy and greed and not from a place of actually wanting to see good in the world and the needy benefit.
I submit that publicly posting that you have done a good deed is both selfish AND selfless and that we should never stop publicizing good deeds and donations to those who need them most.
And we really need to stop judging people. You don’t know them, where their money goes, or how much they can truly afford. Being a celebrity does not come with a requirement to give away your money. Being charitable is a trait not everyone has. No matter their net worth, we should celebrate ALL who give. Whether that is $10 to Feeding America or a million.
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