Service for social media

Photo courtesy of  The Blue Diamond Gallery


In our insular bubble of overcommitment here at Butler, the vast majority of students suffer from the plague of social media addiction. Instagram, Facebook and the like are influential platforms which have become nearly essential in creating a “meaningful” digital presence.

Meanwhile, nestled in the squares of our calendar planners, lie countless club meetings, deadlines and practices; many of these are inherently philanthropic in nature. Our frazzled schedules lead to innumerable photo ops, and the end results (having been filtered, smoothed, whitened, etc.) pop up under the scrolling thumbs of our thousands of “followers.”  

Consider the sum of your social media accounts your “brand.” Maybe it’s edgy, or artsy, or basic. Regardless of your aesthetic, the photos represent aspects of your life. At a medium-sized university such as Butler, let’s face it: we all do the exact same things. This leads to mass posts that have become generic: cutesy charity, postable philanthropy.

More than 1,000 people participated in Bulldogs Into The Streets, trendily referred to as “BITS,” and I would rather wear one of those gray T-shirts for the rest of my life than see another identical Instagram post about it.

Pre-Welcome Week programming involved a much smaller demographic of Dawgs, but the excessive group-shot pictures made me unreasonably resolved to never be a part of one.

At first glance, I thought Fall Alternative Break participants were a weird wilderness cult. It took research to find that “the best four days of my life, with people I’ll never forget” meant doing service in the mountains of West Virginia, and actually, I applaud the folks who romanticize that.

Greek life relentlessly hosts shrieking-loud, themed performances of philanthropy, each benefitting worthwhile, impressive causes. But would students donate chunked time and money if it weren’t mandatory for the chapter organization?

Marit Fuller, junior Delta Delta Delta, is studying French and economics. Fuller said she vehemently believes the only reason people in Greek life participate is because it is required.

There are exceptions, but people here, especially in Greek life, only do it because that’s how the system works and that’s what everyone else is doing. I seriously doubt very many of the people involved in philanthropy because of Greek life would be involved if they weren’t Greek. They post on social media to promote their own images, not because they care,” Fuller said.

Some students see their own intentions in a more forgiving light much like sophomore dance major Nick Bentz, a brother of Delta Tau Delta.

I think Butler students participate in service for a multitude of motivations,” Bentz said. “Some probably participate because it feels good to do service, it is made into a social event, or service is a resume builder…. Personally, my biggest motivation to do service would be the social aspect because my friends are the ones who alert me to service opportunities and push me to get involved. Service events such as BUDM are extremely social and many people go not just to take part in a charitable event, but also to see their friends dance, shave their heads and boost morale.”

Kate Armstrong is a senior political science major who is unaffiliated with a Greek organization.

“Students participate in service because they need mandatory hours per semester,” Armstrong said. “That’s literally it. Or, they want the free food at these events. How often do you see students helping one another, or the disabled, on campus in their everyday lives? Maybe it’s the bystander effect. We’re all too busy, going too fast, to help,” Armstrong said.

Call my judgement cynical. Doubtlessly, these charitable events have positive, tangible effects on both our student population and the surrounding community.

The specific actions of such organizations enact change that wouldn’t be brought about otherwise. Our attention-seeking corner of human nature feels warm and fuzzy when it’s recognized for doing good.

That’s justified! Feeling validated and fulfilled is a natural byproduct, one that helps us to continue being charitable with our time and efforts. When the driving force behind these good deeds becomes “do it for the ‘Gram,” though, is that the transition from generosity to selfishness?

Food for thought. Take the leftovers to Gleaner’s.


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