Daily Archives: October 3, 2010

Confessions of a Virtual Do-Gooder

I work by myself in a home office in a suburb that’s so sleepy it’s practically on tranquilizers. This fundamental fact was one of the challenges I faced back when I set out to do a good deed a day for 50 days. When I’m out for meetings or appointments or errands, taking public transit or walking downtown, the opportunities to do a kindness are ridiculously abundant. You just have to be on the lookout for them. But when you’re at home alone the whole day through, you simply don’t come across many lost wallets, homeless people or boy scouts selling apples.

This is where technology shines. It can be an incredible tool when it comes to giving. With no more than a computer and an Internet connection you can touch the world. You can literally lend a helping hand to your colleague across town, a village in need across the ocean… or even (as is frequently the case for me) a husband on his laptop in the next room.

The beauty too of using technology to do a good turn is that it’s not usually time-consuming. And unless you’re making an online donation to charity, the costs are negligible. Yet you can still make a difference.

In a typical week at home, I might: answer a question that pops up on a listserv; help spread the word on behalf of someone in my community who’s selling a sofa or has found a lost dog; respond to a direct inquiry from a new writer who’s looking for advice or information; send a hairdresser referral to a Facebook friend who’s asking; write a note of encouragement to a pal (everyone has their baggage); support a walkathon for charity; and do some online research for someone in need.

(Hmm – no wonder my work days never seem long enough! Note to my editors: I hope you’re not reading this. But if you are, don’t judge me. It all gets done.)

These are informal ways to use technology to do good. You can also sign up for virtual volunteering. This means you’re contributing your computer skills to a local project or even an international one. Imagine designing a curriculum for students in a Kenyan village, writing a grant proposal for an agency in Cameroon or developing a website for a charity in Ghana. Programs like Nabuur.com and the United Nations Online Volunteering Service can set you up.

So if you’re semi-isolated like me, don’t assume your acts of kindness have to be isolated, too. Power up your ‘puter… and you’re ready to go.