Show me the money

Tips for sending and collecting donations during a nationwide movement.

Rebooting is a biweekly newsletter about how we can use technology to take better care of ourselves.

Apologizing for unintentionally stealing someone else’s lunch money isn’t easy.

My fifth grade history teacher, Ms. Turcotte, hosted weekly Jeopardy quizzes based on that week’s topics, and each correct answer brought a free Tootsie Pop along with it. On a particularly good week, I had hit a stride of correct answers and emerged victorious with five Tootsie Pops to carry me into the weekend.

I’d handed a few to my friends, but wanted to keep a couple to myself to tide me over until I’d escaped my school’s clutches for the weekend. That changed when a classmate, Tyler, asked if he could have one for $5. If it hadn’t been pizza day, I might have said no and trotted along, pops in pocket.

Instead, I took Tyler up on his offer and ventured to the cafeteria with enough cash to split a full pizza with my best friend. After we’d finished up the last few slices, Tyler rushed up to me asking if he could have his money back so he could eat lunch. At the time I got defensive, rudely questioning why he’d given me $5 for a single lollipop in the first place if his lunch depended on those very same dollars. Looking back, though, that feels pretty awful; I could have easily been happy with buying myself two slices of pizza and handing Tyler back his money, had I shown a bit of restraint and not immediately spent the most money I’d pocketed since that Christmas.

I don’t really beat myself up over this—I was just a kid—but still, realizing that your shady business deals were all that stood between a classmate and his lunch doesn’t feel great. Since then, I’ve tried to leave my Steve Castle style negotiations in my youth. Sure, I may no longer have to worry about friends offering me exorbitant amounts of money for mediocre candy, but in the age of Venmo and social payments, dealing with other peoples’ money can still be a tricky thing to get right.

Over the past several months, apps like Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, and even PayPal have been in the news as ways to donate to organizations or bail funds, or, less appropriately, sending your Black friends a few bucks in response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement. More insidiously, there have also been a few cases of scammers setting up spoof donation accounts to make a few bucks off well-intentioned donors. In the case of Venmo and PayPal, transfer limits and security freezes have recently created barriers in helping get people out of jail after protesting.

Whether you’re trying to gather donations, or just give a few bucks to a good cause, you’ll want to be sure to pick the right app and take all the precautions to make sure your money makes it where it needs to go and doesn’t get held up. I spoke with representatives from Cash App and Zelle (Venmo and PayPal didn’t respond to requests for comment) to try to figure out what the best apps are for gathering donations, sending to bail funds, and just helping out friends in need during these trying times.

For sending money to friends who might need a hand after a night of protesting, Zelle is your best bet to get the money to them quickly. Zelle partners directly with banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, Capital One, and plenty more major banks and credit unions, so money transfers directly from your account to theirs, without having to be transferred to a third party that holds up your funds. All you need is the recipient’s email address or phone number. This works fine when you’re sending money to somebody you know, but that isn’t always the case when you’re dealing with donations. Unfortunately, there aren’t any protections for instances where you might have donated to the wrong person or account, so you’ll have to be certain you know where your money’s going before hitting send. “We emphasize that you need to pay people you trust,” a representative for Zelle told me.  “It’s irrevocable, so you won’t be able to get your money back.”

If you’re planning on gathering funds for donations, or you want the peace of mind that the person you’re sending money to has gone through some sort of verification, take a look at Cash App. Unlike Zelle, Cash App lets you set up a username that, if you’re a celebrity, public figure, or “global brand,” can be accompanied by a blue verification badge to help prevent accidents or devious impersonations. That said, there doesn’t seem to be a way to request that badge, so smaller funds may not have it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate. When it’s there, it can give you peace of mind, but when it’s not, you just need to do a little more research before hitting send.  

Cash App works a little more like Venmo than Zelle in that it doesn’t immediately transfer money to your bank account. Instead, it collects a balance in its own account that you can transfer as you need or want. If you’re gathering funds for an upcoming donation that isn’t super urgent, that’s not a huge deal, but it’ll create a few unnecessary hurdles if you’re working with more pressing matters like bail funds.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re planning on using Cash App or Venmo to make your donations, be careful when you’re using a credit card, as many transactions can incur pretty high fees that you won’t run into if you just use a debit card or connect it directly to your checking account.

📚 Good Reads

Reaction GIFs of Black People Are More Problematic Than You Think (OneZero)

It’s hard to remember a time before GIFs infiltrated our online chats. No matter the occasion, GIFs are handy to express what words won’t let you. When you’re cracking jokes in the group DMs or want to seem funny while you’re chatting it up with a new match. Usually, it’s pretty harmless, but that changes when you venture into the territory of digital blackface. Naomi day, writing for OneZero, explains why non-Black people using GIFs of Black people is not only insensitive, but actively harmful:

One danger of non-Black people popularizing funny GIFs of Black people is that these images become the single stories for those who don’t have other meaningful contact with Black folks. The exaggerated emotions often found in these GIFs become a form of entertainment, and the important contexts out of which they came are forgotten. Because of the rapid pace of technology, these single stories spread faster than ever before

Having more flat representations of Black people in images and GIFs does nothing to improve cross-cultural understanding. In my experience, it actually decreases the likelihood that people will extend compassion to other racial groups. If the most common image a non-Black person has of a Black person presents that person as humorous and nothing else, anger on a Black person then becomes more extreme. Sadness becomes more extreme; even joy becomes more extreme. Having access to these portrayals may make a non-Black person feel as though they “know” Black people, but using these in GIFs does nothing to actually increase anyone’s cultural understanding of Black folks.

The best thing to do, if you’re not Black, is to find another suitable GIF for the moment at hand. You can also swap a questionable GIF for an adorable sticker to get the message across. It seems like a small change, and really it doesn’t require much effort, but it’s important that we’re mindful of the ways our interactions may be damaging to BIPOC and build more welcoming solutions.

Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health (Wired)

With so many awful and scary things happening in the world right now, it isn’t always easy to look away. One peek at Twitter will show you the latest doom and gloom, while a quick scroll down your Facebook feed is a sure way to get upset at a family member or two for not grasping how serious things are. Staying informed is important, to a point, but endlessly scrolling to find meaning in what still feels pretty chaotic won’t do much but keep you up at night and on edge.

Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose. The current year is nothing if not a marathon; trying to sprint to the end of one’s feed will only cause burnout and a decline in mental health among the people whose level-headedness is needed most.

Here, Angela Watercutter points out why doomscrolling can actually be harmful. By spending much of our time soaking up the exhausting news cycle and often frustrating commentary online leaves us too burnt out to truly put in the work to support communities in need. Beyond the emotional exhaustion that would prevent us from speaking out or volunteering our time to charitable causes, eye fatigue is real, and most of us can only spend so much time staring at a screen before the strain gets unbearable.

“Doomscrolling for black people works in the inverse, we’re actually trying to look for something separate and apart from bad things,” Richardson says. “For many nonblack Americans, this has been an incredibly enriching time, and doomscrolling for them is a deep dive into the things maybe they weren’t educated well about in the first place or maybe did have an inkling about but were ignoring.”

This is the key. Doomscrolling isn’t inherently bad, but it’s the first step in a long journey to being more informed on the cruelties and injustices taking place nationwide. Once you’ve gotten a good grasp on what’s happening and what’s causing it, you should set aside some time to research what you can do to help fight back and show your support. So, maybe don’t stop doomscrolling, but don’t let it stop there.

It’s not just your feed. Political content has taken over Instagram (Vox)

Like many of you, my friends and I have been talking a lot about performative activism. A month ago, my Instagram feed was an endless stream of cute graphics explaining systemic racism, oppression, police brutality, and ways to be better allies. That’s still mostly true, though it’s started to dwindle quite a bit, leaving questions about what the next steps are.

The question of performative wokeness is always an issue on social media, but activists say sharing memes about racial justice gives them a way to meet people where they are. If an Instagrammed image breaks down the issue, makes it easier to digest, and helps people feel less alienated from the movement, that’s good, said Feminista Jones, an author, speaker, and organizer. But to really be effective, people need to go beyond that.

As with doomscrolling, Instagram’s abundance of graphics breaking down complex racial issues into byte-sized pictures makes for a solid gateway into understanding things that have long been ignored. Framing it this way, as people begin to express their understanding and solidarity, rather than as a performative expression of empathy, paves the way to get those same people to take action on what they’ve learned.

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As always, if you have any questions, feedback, or just want to say hello, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.

My thanks to Medea Giordano for editing this issue.