Earlier this year social media was maligned for the ease with which it allowed the #neknomination drinking game to spread, and seemingly encourage irresponsible and dangerous acts of rapid intoxication. By being able to tag others in posts, the craze spread incredibly quickly, leading to an enormous number of people posting videos of themselves trying to out-do each other in terms of drinking bravado, sometimes with fatal consequences.
However, the notion of tagging people in posts and asking them to carry out a particular task before passing on the proverbial baton to other friends has taken a benevolent turn. As of last week, women have been posting a #NoMakeupSelfie along with a mobile screenshot of their text donations in aid of Cancer Research UK, and then challenging their female friends to forego their makeup and follow suit by tagging them in the post.
So far the movement has raised over £8m, although not all of the money pledged has ended up going to Cancer Research UK. As messages are relayed many times over, something is bound to get lost in translation. In this case, simply texting the wrong word when making a donation has seen money inadvertently diverted to other causes.
The text keyword for Cancer Research UK is ‘BEAT’, however many people texted the word ‘DONATE’, which is designated solely for the use of Unicef. As a result, Unicef has received over £18,000 worth of ‘accidental’ donations. But the errors didn’t end there…
A number of people also fell foul of their phone’s autocorrect feature, which changed the word ‘BEAT’ to BEAR. They then received thank you messages from the World Wildlife Fund after the word ‘bear’ automatically triggered the initial process for adopting polar bears. However, WWF’s Director of Fundraising – Kerry Blackstock – was quick to allay fears of people being signed up to a longterm commitment:
“Any texts sent to us instead of Cancer Research [UK] would not result in any donations going to help protect polar bears as WWF relies on human operators calling people back to confirm adoptions, so no money would have changed hands.”
But setting aside the minor admin errors made by both man and technology, the whole story is a great example of how significant change can be affected by the use of social media, and how simple it is for acts of good will to gain momentum and a critical mass when people share an idea online. Long may it continue.