Beggars getting alms is so passé- today they are entitled to some attention as well!
Turns out technology is not just making human lives easier, it also is making it more affordable through something as ‘effortless’ as begging albeit in an altogether different avtar.
Enter the scene internet beggars as part of the now common cyberbegging community. Also called e-begging or internet begging or internet panhandling, this upgrade in the manner and method of begging is a very fashionable way indeed to afford a lifestyle that might be extravagant way beyond one’s financial means. And while the intent in begging might be one more needy, as in the traditional ask for basic necessities of life or as a resort in affording crucial treatment, the very expression of this form of begging upon an unreal world identified by profiles over persons make it more likely to find interpretation- and also expression as a disparaging ‘designation’.
For all its attending to moderner needs though, the very practice of cyberbegging is not a definite 21st century phenomenon. In fact begging in some form found expression through the internet in its very early days. From featuring then on local bulletin board systems to the current day spurt of exclusive begging websites, the internet hosts indeed quite some history in this regard. Consider also the case of cause websites that assert as cyber-begging sites presenting some personal appeal for funds or help and the entire domain of this defining spans as spurious on one end and sensible on the other.
The notoriousness of begging being a profession might not have been a historical notion of the traditional practice of what was a largely accepted means of ‘earning’ livelihood. But much like its evolution through the times in such capacity that made it assume the identity of being an easy way in minting money, the concept of e-begging too parallelly occurred in notoriety. Unlike the vague timeline of physical begging in coming to bear this awareness in indignity, cyberbegging has a very definite episode of (un)popularity to explain this mass minting of money sans its associated prestige and privilege.
The era of a new disrepute dawned in 2002 when now author and then television producer Karyn Bosnak devised what she called was a creative way in crawling out of debt. Having shifted base to New York in 2000 and assuming a profligate manner of spending on luxury brands, she found herself incurring $20,000 worth of debt on her credit card that she was unable to pay off due to having lost her job. She came up with the website savekaryn.com as an ingenious idea to ‘banish credit card debt from my life’, urging netizens to lend money for the same.
For her blatant stating of the facts in being unable to pay off a debt that she incurred due to her lavish ways of spending, Bosnak would still be able to catch the fancy of the online community. With some 13000 dollars granted from what she deemed as performing rather than panhandling, the heralder indeed of this trend in cyberbegging saw sufficient success for others to join the bandwagon in greater enthusiasm. But what it earned for Karyn wasn’t worth (only) the money- it also led her to a different dimension of identity altogether.
The site itself received considerable attention in the press and while the premise of her beginnings was pretty much the trendsetter in cyberbegging through dedicated websites, the further curation of it would be somewhat creative indeed. She added newer features to the site, devoting about half of her day on its working even in holding a job by then, continuously asserting the cause of its founding. Regular updates were made with the amount received even as Bosnak dwelt also specifically on the ways by which she was saving money. Candid and humorous in her approach that had users hooked, so much so that many of the gifts she received were validated by donors as offering for her entertainment value, the website that she created ended up being quite the hit.
Eventually Bosnak did manage to clear the entire quantum of debt, part through the website and the other through eBaying and saving. She proved to be also someone with much ‘integrity’ as she stood by her promise of accepting donations after the time she turned debtless. She went a step further and redirected the site to help out instead other people with similar needs.
Save Karyn though isn’t only a defunct website as of now. Instead, Bosnak made use of her experience to pen down her debut book Save Karyn: One Shopaholic’s Journey to Debt and Back. The 2003 autobiographical account of a defining phase of her life was followed by the 2006 release 20 Times A Lady that would go on to spawn the 2011 rom-com What’s Your Number?.
Such fame strewn over her path through a coursing along the trendier trail of begging can be considered though as an irony of sorts. Internet begging is supposed to be ‘safer’ a way of seeking money from others for exclusively personal intention, since profiles can easily be created as per one’s desire. This endows upon cyberbeggars the advantage of anonymity so that the shame and humiliation associated with street begging need not be something to be freaking about.
Interestingly though, a considerable volume of such acts that asserts as e-begging intends at achieving unnecessary, if not frivolous ends. To term then cyberbegging as a phenomenon that people would take to as a fad or out of dire necessity would be an understatement perhaps of its now way deeper essence. It is a culture almost by now that the greatly convenienced human of the technologically powered world claims for it as a right almost of its living. Spurring then a new generation of beggars who very confidently pitch their need for money by setting up entire websites for practically any and every cause waiting fulfilment would be this concept of panhandling that the internet did not spare, much like everything else.
Spare it did indeed the modern human though by reducing the pains to be taken in moneying one’s interests. It though also are actual beggars who today explores this realm of present day pertinence, with homeless people seeking donations in such capacity. The greater pouring in of the cash is an obvious benefit- with accessibility expanding to ask from the entire world what would traditionally be a very restricted mode in operability. And like one might argue, changing oneself with the changing needs of time might be one key factor that is driving this growing community of internet beggars.
Meriting and demeriting the issues and ‘essence’ of internet begging would be as open ended a discussion or debate as what the general practice of begging in all physical form of the human warrants. The scope indeed is wider in terms of the former, whether in accessing the funds or in offering ‘valid’ reasons for the same. The response would likely be more uniform though with the probability being equal in terms of getting or not getting the money. Either way, the case isn’t one of validating or devalidating something that bears the potential to boil down to critical concerns of ethicality or such idealistic concepts in living. But one thing is for sure- the human world is not ready to evolve yet to be a version of itself that completely disowns the practice of begging in any of its assertions.