Though the primary motivation of most volunteers is helping others, not personal recognition, they are less likely to quit if they are thanked for their service (New York Cares 2009). With US non-profits losing $30 billion annually due to high volunteer attrition (New York Cares 2009), why are there not more programs to thank and reward volunteers? As co-creator of Reward Volunteers, a mobile app that attempts to do just that, I realized that part of the problem lays with prevalent societal attitudes that value volunteers’ self-sacrifice and the appearance of humility.
Impossible Foods, a startup with $75 million in venture funding is reportedly working on a meatless burger that bleeds. Yep, bleeds. Gross, right? Well, no, that’s part of the appeal, apparently. As a society we are (usually) so squeamish about blood and bodily functions that it is surprising that something so otherwise well, off-putting would be considered a positive attribute. People often speak of liking the “taste” of meat, but does it really taste that good? Good enough to overcome the normal aversion to blood? Or fecal matter, which is found in over 90% of most US meat? Not to mention the host of moral, environmental and health concerns. The true draw to meat is likely a complex emotional attachment, which likely augments the perceived pleasure many people get from eating it. In making rational arguments against killing animals, and often overlooking or discounting these emotional realms as weak justifications, activists are focusing too much on being right, and missing opportunities to actually influence more people.
I often tell people, casually, that I don’t really like apps. They say, “but you’ve been working for two years to launch a mobile app business!” This is true, but it’s not that I think the technology is so cool; rather, apps are tools, which oftentimes end up creating more problems. How many of us have more time now? Sure, slicing flying fruit and flinging cartoon animals across the screen is fun, but these only provide fleeting distractions, until the next gimmick replaces them. Do we have shorter attention spans, and a jaded sense of excitement? It’s not that technology is inherently a waste of time, or that people shouldn’t use it for entertainment, but the proportions are, in my opinion, off. Luckily, there are truly useful apps and programs that facilitate everything from “micro volunteering,” to helping people with autism communicate better. There’s no reason that technology cannot continue eroding the perceived dichotomy between doing good and having a good time, but to do so, we must offer consumers a range of technological tools to fit their needs.
I've been faced with many challenges, especially relating to on the one hand, the need and desire to film "reality" (ie not just performative pieces like cute kids singing songs), and on the other, a discomfort with filming in difficult situations. I'm noting how my own anxiety and the perceived and/or real discomfort of the subjects play off of each other. The dilemma came up abruptly when four of the children’s (siblings) biological father was very sick with TB and in the hospital. He was an alcoholic and absent most of their childhood and thus they were in the care of the school/home where I'm filming. Still, they loved him and would go visit him in the hospital. The relationship was complex: the 14 year old boy, Rajendra said to me, "I love my father, but I don't like when he would beat my mom".