It happened about two weeks ago now. I’m late to the game. But what a bizarre event.
For a straightforward, concise rundown of The Bus Monitor incident illustrated with a chronological collection of related Twitter posts, comments, videos and news articles, read this Storify article.
(1) A youtube video of a sobbing elderly woman being harrassed by a bus full of middle school children surfaces.
(2) The video trends, generates discussion of general bullying as well as notions of vigilante-style justice
(3) A campaign is established to collect donations in order to send the woman on a nice vacation
(4) campaign raises $650,000, internet creepshow Anonymous predictably plans to harrass minors in the name of justice
(5) somewhat confused but flattered elderly woman appears on television, gives thanks, invests money in retirement
Karen Klein isn’t by any means a new type of celebrity. Even before the Internet, particularly touching or heart-breaking human interest stories have led to fundraising campaigns and fame. However, the Bus Monitor story piques my interest because of it’s utilization of several relatively new media mechanisms to arrive at it’s goal, the immediacy of the reaction and subsequent fundraising. None of it would have been possible without the use of social media, primarily Twitter and Indiegogo (not to mention Storify’s relatively ingenious method of coherently narrating a “social media event” using assembly and curation of the mess of assets involved).
Innumerable events occur in the world everyday, every second, but so few of them are captured, fit into an attractive narrative and sold to the digital public.
Many people experience suffering in the world, and a few of them are bus monitors.
Karen Klein said in an interview with People Magazine, “…It’s like I almost don’t feel like I deserve it”. It’s understandable that she would feel that way, receiving this unusual monetary gift from a faceless mob of philanthropy. But of course she deserves it.
Every dollar Karen Klein received came from empathetic strangers online, people who have almost certainly experienced similarly unpleasant circumstances in their lives. Every one of us have experienced the cruelty of others. Every one of us feels like we deserve $650,000 for our hardships. That’s what The Internet gave Karen Klein, because now she represents all of our suffering. We feel good about ourselves, and Karen Klein gets to retire. It’s an excellent deal.