This is your official notice: The Internet is shutting down. Forever. So send off those last e-mails, don't bother downloading Netscape 7.02, sell that Earthlink stock. Because ladies and gentlemen, all signs of the Web apocalypse have been fulfilled.
First it was the fact that porn is the only thing making money on the Net. Amazon.com can't turn a profit, but 24 year-old pervert Seth Warshavsky can make $60 million a year with a webcam and some moonlighting strippers. Next came shit like this. But the real reason we're closing this whole operation down is the sudden, ridiculous rise of e-begging sites.
E-begging rose to prominence thanks to a self-described "hottie" named Karyn Bosnak. Karyn ran up a $20,000 credit card bill buying Prada shoes, drinking $6 lattes and hanging around Bloomingdale’s longer than Tony Danza does at the Miss America pageant. So instead of being a responsible adult, ("I just couldn't stop buying things," she says) she decided to ask America for help by creating www.savekaryn.com. Somehow, in addition to sucking the intelligence out of every single person to visit her site, "the girl who makes you smile!" also duped many into donating more than $13,000 towards her cause.
Karyn claims to have realized the error of her ways. She now thinks Old Navy clothes are just spiffy and Oil of Olay works as well as any designer brand. However, a quick glance at her daily postings shows that she's still eating out, going to see Bruce Springsteen in concert, and buying new shower curtains instead of washing the old "grody" one.
It's all enough to make you want to kidnap Karyn and ship her off to a Soweto shantytown just to see how long she lasts. However, the worst thing about all this wasn't Karyn's pathetic poor-little-rich-girl plea, it was the fact that she succeeded. Thanks to The Campaign To Avoid Personal Responsibility, e-begging Websites have suddenly popped up all over.
From brainless 20-something ex-frat boys to self-depreciating kids who claim their life is over at 23 if they can't pay off $15,000, this Internet version of a cardboard sign has developed into the hottest cyber-pastime this side of "Am I Hot or Not." Remembering the old adage that a sucker is born every minute, some cyber-panhandlers stopped asking for a fixed amount of cash and are instead whining for help with their monthly expenses.
Of course this being America, these sites aren't limited to people in need. Would-be want-to-haves have flipped the script and are now dedicating sites as their own personal wish lists. A quick search found an unsettling number of sites like Ed Needs A Hummer. Ed seems to be missing the point that people would probably rather give him a dollar to buy a life, a personality, or a clue. Then there's Brad, who wants to go to Japan to become a black belt. Maybe he'd be happy if we all pitched in and bought him Gymkata on DVD instead. The women aren't excluded from the on-line materialism. GiveBoobs.com and Help4Aimee offer everyone the chance to not only donate to the Baywatching of America, but to even get before and after pictures.
Most disturbing are sites like helpmeleavemyhusband.com where some bored housewife wants you to pay her nursing school tuition so she can keep her kids in competitive ice skating while leaving her husband (whose only crimes seem to be the fact that he's boring, argues with her and doesn't make any money).
Entire sites have popped up catering completely to other e-begging sites. Epanhandler.net lists close to 30 sites pleading for your hard-earned cash for one reason or another.
If all this isn't the last sign of the Internet apocalypse, then nothing is. What does it say about a country where people with homes and cars and cable TV turn to begging because they can't afford a $120,000 planet-killing SUV or $9,000 D-cups? Most people won't give the spare change in their pockets to a homeless person on the street who probably hasn't eaten in days, but thousands will happily contribute a few bucks so that some ex-television producer can pay off this season's strappy sandals and her Gucci sunglasses.
Where is this country headed when our sense of entitlement outweighs our own sense of personal responsibility?
On Karyn Bosnak's site she offers tips for others in debt. It's a scary, scary thought to realize she's completely serious when she tells people to shop for designer clothes on eBay, "Get a Satellite dish! It's cheaper (and more reliable) than cable", or to only get partial highlighting to save money on your hair coloring. It's no wonder the rest of the world hates us (except for those countries with the resources to emulate us.)
Pardon the pun, but it also begs the question: to what level has America's parenting sunk when its children turn to the Internet as a cop-out to hard work? Why bother to get a job, budget, and save money when anyone with an ISP can ask for, and get, money for free. Then again, when the average American has eight credit cards and is $8500 in debt, the rise of e-begging seems like perfect consumeristic Darwinism.
The question is, where will it end? When will we see the rise of www.givemea12inchpenis.com, or someone wanting America to make him Joe Millionaire. Oh wait, we already have. See? It really is time for the Internet to be shut down. It's officially gone to Hell.
Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.14.03 @ 2:03a
I didn't know a hummer was a car.
P. T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Amazon has it's own version of this with the wishlist. I've seen people posting all over the web, asking strangers to buy them stuff. It's the realization of the Janis Joplin Mercedes Benz song. If God won't buy me what I want, then I'll just ask strangers until someone gives me what I want.
There is no such thing as the responsible adult. Hell, if I were 10 years younger, okay, maybe 20, I'd be a web porn star myself. Fast cash, and gullible people make the world go 'round.
It is a great column, by the way. Very informative and funny, in a downfall-of-the-human-race sort of way.
3.14.03 @ 3:08a
We are in a country where the economy is sucking, unemployment is up, and we are likely to go to war. Yet, new car sales and restaurant dining are increasing, along with personal debt. Is this the "American Dream" gone wrong? What the hell has happened here?
3.14.03 @ 8:06a
This is the American Dream gone right! This is what it's always been about: making life in the fast lane without having to work to get there. Head to the hills of California, sift out a couple of pans worth of dirt, and make your million. Get fat and rich on somebody else's dime!
This is the American Dream: fat, lazy, and loving it.
3.14.03 @ 9:33a
I don't think the American Dream started out that way. I mean, when people came to settle here it was easy only in the sense that you owned your own property and were working to make your own farm pay, not someone else's. But you are right, at some point it changed to be getting the best lifestyle with the least amount of effort.
3.14.03 @ 9:36a
I'd rather have these people begging and then actually paying off their debts, as opposed to the mother-f***ers who just default on their payments and drive up interest rates, insurance costs and other transactional fees for all of us working folks. And I'm not even going to start with those who employ identity theft to take OTHER people's credit!! I hope they die, along with anyone who uses welfare instead of working (note: does not apply to those who actually can't work -- you losers know who you are, and when I know you, you'll PAY!)
3.14.03 @ 9:54a
I thought the American dream was about hard work. This isn't hard work - this is simply begging.
And how are they going to learn their lesson if they just get bailed out all the time?
3.14.03 @ 10:01a
The American dream was about hard work, but now I think it isn't. People call it the American dream, but it isn't really, it's just sloth.
What I don't understand is why people part with their money for scams like this. Why would you give some man money to buy a Hummer when you can spend it on yourself?
3.14.03 @ 10:19a
It makes people feel better about themselves when they feel like they're helping others out, and now they can do it over the internet without ever having to leave the comfort of their plush pleathor office chairs.
michelle von euw
3.14.03 @ 10:19a
OK, there have always been people who can't control the lure of the "get rich quick" theory, usually in the form of something like a pyramid scheme. The thing about most of the websites that Matt has mentioned, however, is the blantant, well, honesty about it. Whatever happened to a good scam? Where's Henry Hill with his big band? I don't know if it's lack of imagination or just plain laziness, but it stuns me that people are so easily led to part with their hard-earned cash (in this economy, no less) without getting anything in return.
3.14.03 @ 10:25a
Like Michelle said, people aren't even being original about it. Look at GiveBoobs.com and Help4Aimee.com - they're copies of each other, almost even down to the layouts.
3.14.03 @ 10:46a
It doesn't have to be original for people to buy into it, though. Unless you're out there looking for it, you're not going to come across a ton of these, and to the average 'Net user (not us, obivously) who thinks that e-mail is this magic thing, people who struggle to not type in the URL they're trying to go to into the search engine window and thus search for it isntead, people who send each other web pages about puppies and the hampster dance 4-6 times a day because, "Omigod, isn't that cute? LOLOLOL?" People that like eat this shit up.
Never underestimate the far reach of stupidity.
3.14.03 @ 10:55a
As long as we're at it, there's always the drunk fund.
But I guess I don't really see the harm in this. The worst thing that can happen is that these people put up these sites and don't get any money. I'm not saying they deserve it, but there is some sort of entrepenurial bent to creating a page that will let people send you money, if they want. It's not all that different from welfare or the lottery. Basically people are making themselves a charity. I just hope they get the bejeezus taxed out of them.
3.14.03 @ 12:57p
I just get pissed at the gall of these people. Aimee (who wants fake breasts) talks on her site about her new dog she just bought. Well, if you want new breasts, don't go spend money on a dog, then whine to me about how you have no money for d-cups.
And it bugs me that people would donate $13,000 to someone for her Prada and Mark Jacobs clothes, when they could have donated that money to a real charity that would have done a lot more good with the cash.
3.14.03 @ 1:01p
Yeah, I thought it was quite ironic that Aimee had a picture of a puppy on her website. It brings to mind a rather amusing euphemism.
But you're right, Matt -- the fact that these people are being supported in their sloth is just a bad example to the rest of society -- you should see what people get away with in the welfare system.
3.14.03 @ 1:05p
Oh, I'm annoyed at the people who throw away their money at these morons. But I'm not pissed at the morons themselves.
3.14.03 @ 1:55p
Come now, Adam. You can't get mad at how people spend their money. It is their money, after all. If someone want to support another's poor life choices, it's their choice to do so. Capitalism is all about free market - that means if you want to waste your cash on deadbeats, booze, or a swimming pool full of pudding, that's your right.
3.14.03 @ 2:34p
3.14.03 @ 2:36p
True Jeff, it's their right, and maybe I'm being too altruistic. But it seems that on both sides, people need to get perspective about what's important.
3.14.03 @ 2:59p
Backing off from the bigger arguments here, I think the reason people do it is because it's easy to give someone a dollar or 5 bucks. The argument that these people could spend it on themselves instead is empty because what does a dollar buy? The point is getting 20,000 people to EACH give a dollar. Unless there are a bunch of morons who write huge checks (and there very well may be, I didn't check), I don't think the responsibility really lies with the donors.
Oh, and yeah, scams are cool and romantic and funny and all, but come on, I'd rather someone cut to the chase and be "honest" about it than fool and take advantage of dupes.
3.14.03 @ 3:03p
My argument is that if they're going to give $5, why can't they give it to a legitimate charity?
I mean, I don't often give to charity, but I'm also not a hypocrite who sponsors someone getting drunk or (while I applaud the result) getting big boobs.
3.14.03 @ 5:23p
The N&O in Raleigh once did a story on a panhandler who worked the Glenwood/Beltline exit. He'd just hold up a sign "Please Give -God Bless You."
The guy made $45,000 tax free a year. Had a house. A family. Just said he couldn't be "pinned down" and that, since he was out there pretty much 8 hours a day, felt he worked hard for the money.
Not that I've never given anything to the homeless, because I have, but I think people who contribute to these types of people - online or otherwise - need their heads examined. Better to give $20 through a legitimate organization to help a family of five keep their lights on next month than to some stupid bimbo who wants money for Springsteen tickets.
3.14.03 @ 5:44p
Hell, I've got debt but I would never beg to pay it off. I don't think that any self-respecting individual would put money toward these "causes" when there is so much real charity in the world that needs to be done.
The e-begging success is the fault of the stupid people who ask and the stupid people who give. And they're complimenting each other nicely.
3.15.03 @ 12:07a
My blood-pressure was going up as I read Matt's awesome column.
Yes, it bothers me that people put up these horrific websites. But ANYONE who gives a cent to these people is a total loser jackass. (Tell us what you really think, Dave.)
I can't even stand homeless people (those who aren't in a wheelchair without legs, anyway) begging for money, let alone someone with small boobs.
It's a fact that successful begging begets more begging, and so on.
But Matt, please don't shut the internet down. I REALLY need it.
3.15.03 @ 12:15a
I disagree with the thought the American dream was of hard work. There are many versions of the American dream, but all of them have one common thread. Whether they were Pilgrims, or indentured servants, or border jumpers, they came here for freedom. Now freedom can mean different things to different people.
In the case of Amiee it means T&A. Wait, did Amiee want boobs or just to pay off her debt? I get confused. I sat in my office today listening to one of our secretaries, as she said she had to find a husband to take care of her, because she was tired of working. Her dream is to stop working, and she sees a man as her road to opportunity.
Point being, it's always about fast cash, and easy living. Self-respect is a luxury we have which people like Amiee and Ed, and the ex-fratboy are abusing.
3.15.03 @ 10:29a
I was interested that you feel the Amazon wishlist is part of the problem. I don't see Amazon wishlists as a way to get stuff from strangers - more a way to talk about what things are cool with friends. If a stranger ever sent me something from my Amazon wishlist I'd be pretty freaked out.
Also, I don't get why it's a "jackass" thing to do to help people above the poverty line do stuff that's "non-worthy". If I want to help people do crazy stuff (fly to Australia, give it all up to be a singer, buy a dog, whatever) then what's wrong with my giving and their accepting? Seems an entirely reasonable transaction between adults to me.
In a way, I see the payments these "eBeggers" are extracting much more as a royalty on the entertainment value people are getting from reading their sites. People read, enjoy themselves, and contribute a few bucks. Much like paying a busker in Park Street station who plays a good tune, or sending in a shareware registration fee.
3.15.03 @ 12:51p
You've got a good point. Because they're being up front about what they're doing, it's a little less skeezy. It would be something else entirely if they didn't let you know what they were doing, like offering to sell you a non-existant product, just to pay off their credit card debt.
So, in the end, maybe we're just all jealous because these people are getting their money for nothing and their boob-jobs for free.
3.15.03 @ 1:16p
I think it's just the next inevitable phase of reality programming, personally. While I don't watch that type of TV myself, it's pretty evident that there's a market for it. Certainly I think that money could be better spent on a REAL charity that helps people who are both needier and more deserving. But you gotta give these e-beggars credit for trying - that they've had any success boggles the mind. I wouldn't contribute to an e-beggar, but if someone else wants to waste their money that way, that's their choice.
3.15.03 @ 4:16p
Eloise, I think it's considered a "jackass" thing to do because it seems kinda lame to help someone who's not in need when there are so many people truly in need.
I think it comes back to that warped sense of entitlement. People think they're entitled to have a Hummer or a boob job, eventhough they're not willing to work hard, save money, and get them for themselves.
3.15.03 @ 5:41p
Thanks for helping me explain, Matt. I was too peeved to give a logical, coherent explanation for my rage.
3.15.03 @ 6:39p
Well thanks Matt. So I am "kinda lame" when I help someone who isn't impoverished or anything, because you think that I should instead be helping someone else who is "truly in need"... Wonderful.
I could instead be buying cigarettes with the money, renting porn DVDs, getting frequent expensive haircuts, raising several offspring, or learning how to handle a handgun. How can you pass such moral judgment on my choice?
3.15.03 @ 6:48p
Eloise, please reread my post. I said "It seems kinda lame..." I never said "You are kinda lame."
But in my own, individual, personal opinion, if you are going to give away your money and would rather help someone get breasts implants than help a homeless person get food, then yes, you are fucking lame.
I can pass all the moral judgments I want. They're called my opinions.
3.15.03 @ 11:57p
Eloise, except for the offspring and the cigarettes, you've described me pretty well.
I only mention Amazon wishlists because lately I've gotten several e-mails from strangers, I guess a mass e-mailing of sorts, directing me to go to their wishlists and buy them something. Usually the items are CDs but one guy had laptop computers on his list. I don't buy them CDs either, unless it was someone I know, and it was a birthday or holiday present.
I can't say not to help people who aren't in need, because I do help people who have the means to support themselves. Of course I'm not financing boobjobs, or helping people buy a hummer.
I'm actually fascinated by what people will ask of others. I think it was Kennedy who said "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," or something like that. It was a nice sentiment for that time, but now reality is setting in. The masses have spoken and some of them want boobs.
3.16.03 @ 12:11a
Matt, I know you didn't know that you were describing me when you were using the lame/jackass descriptions. I wasn't accusing you of attacking me personally on purpose. It's nice and convenient to talk about "other people" in our discussions, but sometimes we can make it more pointed by claiming some responsibility for the actions that members of our community berate.
As far as I can tell, I do fall into the category you rank "lame/jackass" here. Even though I have never funded anyone to get breast implants and can't imagine a situation where I'd ever want to (except perhaps after lumpectomy/mastectomy), I haven't done anything that I can recall for homeless people, either, other than a bit of food sorting that didn't cost me anything except a couple of hours of my time.
Yes, you have a right to your opinion - I was surprised at the affrontery of it, but not denying your right to it. I'd note, however, that I don't agree that I take on some kind of moral inferiority by choosing to help one kind of person over another.
3.16.03 @ 3:12p
I wasn't describing you in the lame/jackass description.
3.17.03 @ 3:50p
Well, I think people can give money to whatever they goddamn want. Sure, I would elect to put my money somewhere I deemed useful, but it’s their money. To me, it appears a rather naïve thing to contribute toward.
But maybe they do find this sort of thing “entertaining.” Personally, I find it humiliating and pathetic. And I have absolutely no respect for the people whom are establishing and running these sites.
3.18.03 @ 2:34a
These type of sites are in a way comparative to television shows like Fear Factor, Dog Eat Dog, and other lame game shows, as far as entertainment value goes. I'm wondering, if the girl gets implants will she be posting pictures, or doing live webcam shows?
It's all very self-exploitative. The wanting the car, that's just classic. "Oh Lord, won'tcha buy me..." kind of thing.
3.18.03 @ 11:50a
I don't know. Most of these sites aren't that original or entertaining. The writing's bad and layouts are usually cookie cutter. They're certainly not $1 worth of entertainment to me.
On Help4Aimee, if you pay her $20 she'll send you before and after photos of her boob job.
3.19.03 @ 12:52a
I read this the other day, but no one had commented on it yet. I didn’t want to be the first, so I figured I ‘d wait. I see now that it has become quite a show of opinion, which is what these things are for I guess. Just wanted you to know that I read it and I liked it. The links were both entertaining and disturbing.
I think the people that make the websites are more disturbing than the people sending them money. As you pointed out… they are not looking for money to sustain existence (food, shelter etc.), so there must be some other reason they feel they need to do it.
This pledge of money has become the adult version of ultimate “reward.” With kids it is normally verbal praise or sometimes (stupid) stickers of approval. I know four year olds who already “need” that verbal praise from anyone around…. In fact some children spend all their time getting as much praise as possible from anyone who will listen or comment. It’s the attention they’re after. And because most adults automatically respond with a “That’s beautiful” or a “ great job!” with out caring if the child has actually put any effort into it, those kids grow up and make websites where they can get as many people’s attention/money as possible. It’s an almost effortless way to create the feeling of approval/support. (maybe to fill the lack of support for your stupid decision: a hummer, a boob-job, etc)
Or possibly people are just lazy and greedy.
3.19.03 @ 10:19a
Hey, if I really wanted something and had no pride, I'd probably create a website for it, too. The thing is, it's free money. This isn't to say that I agree with the intent or whatever it is in basic human behavior that motivates us to do these things. But the only thing stopping me from asking for donations to "Save the Kraemer" is self-respect. The prospect of getting something for nothing is pretty tempting.
3.30.03 @ 7:07p
But it's not "for nothing". They have to put up a website, that is sufficiently interesting that people will stop long enough in their surfing to reach into their virtual pockets. If they don't manage to do that, then it doesn't work for them, for the reader, for anyone.
7.15.05 @ 12:40p
While I think its a smart idea to harness the global reach of the Internet, I realized after stumbling across a site the other day that it makes much more sense to create 1 site per theme, so that those that wish to offer help can find a site full of people in a specific need that they believe in.
For example, the site I came across offers free breast implants and other free cosmetic surgery to women: http://myfreeimplants.com/
If all the 100's - 1000's of women out there with homemade geocities/yahoo website asking for donations that only have $50 raised over the last 3 years were to come together one that one website I think they would have much more success.
Power in numbers, right?