Doing your good deeds publicly?

When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!

HydrantsFBBack in mid-February, our local newspaper social media guru wrote: “A good deed loses some of its purity when it’s broadcasted by the ‘doer’ on social media.” I thought this was self-evidently true.

One person replied: “I’d like to think people do this to inspire others to follow suit. But the skeptic in me is pretty sure that they do this to satisfy their ego.” I have no idea about the motivation, but too often, it just feels unseemly.

Another: “If you want to pay it forward, just do it! If you are looking for praise for your complimentary cup of coffee , then you did it for the wrong reasons.” I’ll give that an AMEN.

And: “Bragging about a good deed is tacky. Class is when you do the right thing, not only when no one is looking but also when no one will thank or praise you.” YES.

And: “I know when I had someone do a random act of kindness for me, I was shocked and mentioned it on social media.” If the receiver mentions it, that is a whole ‘nother thing.

Of course, MY first reaction was to cite the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t QUOTE it – this WAS Facebook – but I shall do so here, from chapter 6, verses 2 and 3:

When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.

Then the conversation went into a slightly different direction, about digging out fire hydrants, a function, no doubt of a then-recent fire on a Friday night, where the firefighters were hampered by a hydrant being buried in the snow. By Sunday, local fire departments, both paid and volunteers were liberating the hydrants.

I noted: “Saturday, my daughter and I liberated TWO fire hydrants on our block, NOT in front of our property. She said, kiddingly (I think), ‘We should get a citation from the city.’ My thinking was that the deed was the reward, and would not have otherwise mentioned it at all but for this conversation.”

This is a long way of asking: do you note in social media when you do a good deed? Is it for promoting oneself or to inspire others to do likewise? The above example notwithstanding, I almost never note my good deeds, because it doesn’t feel right. For me.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

12 thoughts on “Doing your good deeds publicly?”

  1. No, I don’t advertise it in social media. However, I do like to do some of my good deeds in group activities.

    It’s true that a good deed should be its own reward. It’s also true that it sometimes feels better and more fun when you participate with others.

    I think it’s morally important to do some in private, but psychologically important to do some in groups so you will be rewarded with praise and “petted” a bit for it.

  2. I don’t post my good deeds but I would if, in my opinion, I thought it would inspire someone else to do the same. You are speaking several shades of gray so to speak – For example: I just went to the court house to protest against the oil trains going through Albany … yep I would post it. When I donated money, clothing, food, or helped someone out … no I would not post it. I am sure there are even exceptions in each situation. I also think it depends on the persons personality .. for me and like you it just doesn’t feel right to pat your own back.

  3. I think that a lot of the problems that people have with social media is that some people still feel like they are talking to themselves, or talking to something that isn’t real. So some may brag about their own good deeds into Twitter but would never behave that way standing in front of their flesh and blood friends and associates.

  4. It’s sort of like praying. Best done without being a big, flashy show. I believe we live in a very insecure culture where some people may need to boast about their good deeds to make themselves feel better about themselves.

  5. I dunno, I think you’re all being a bit unduly harsh. People have ALWAYS bragged about doing good deeds, and long before social media came around. What is wearing an “I donated!” sticker but bragging? Or even “I voted!”, for that matter. Here in NZ, people wear pin-on poppies to show they donated for ANZAC Day, or Daffodils for the Cancer Society’s annual fundraiser. Both have been around for decades.

    The thing is, most of us take no notice of people wearing stickers or pins, and we similarly can easily ignore people who brag on social media. The fact that some people clearly ARE bragging on social media annoys me no more than when they post photos of their lunch, but a LOT less then when someone decides to trash some movie or TV show or song they don’t like and feel everyone else must hate, too.

    The point is, people do a lot of annoying things to promote themselves, their thoughts, feelings AND good deeds. Getting upset about it, or even taking any notice, seems to me to be a waste of time and energy. If anything, I’m kind of glad to know that people still do good deeds!

    Two last things: While I don’t know if I’ve ever touted my own good deeds through social media, I very well may have and certainly wouldn’t rule it out (the fact I don’t know shows that I don’t even care about my OWN bragging). However, I’ve frequently spread opportunities for others to do good, like, for example, sharing links to websites where people can donate to good causes.

    And out in the real world, people who donate to get one of those things like sticker or poppies to wear have one big advantage over those who don’t: They know they won’t be harassed by other collectors out on the streets. Can’t say that about social media.

  6. Arthur – this isn’t being hard on myself. This is that it seems unseemly to me. “Hey, look at me, aren’t I great?” Though, in fact, I’ll wear a sticker saying, “I donated blood today.” But that’s face-to-face. And I don’t find touting, say, AIDS awareness or another good cause, equivalent to me promoting ME. Like Clancy said, it’s more nuanced than that.

  7. Further, saying “I voted” just seems like good citizenship, something that everybody does, or should. To say, “I helped liberate two fire hydrants sounds like bragging; “Gee, aren’t I WONDERFUL!”

  8. Yeah, but if people to saying “I helped liberate two fire hydrants” encourages others to do the same, then at least it’s bragging with a useful purpose.

  9. It may have a good outcome, but it still seems… unseemly. Even admitting to it does. There was a quiz thing I did, and it asked if I’ve ever done a good thing, and truth is, I do all the time. Generally, I don’t remember it, and I rather like it, because it feels like a rightly-lived life. For me.

  10. It bothers me when I see people advertising the goods deeds they have done. This tells me they are looking for some sort of acknowledgment and praise for what they have done. This is so totally off! Now, posting a nice thing your child has done is borderline, it’s nice to be proud of your kid but you’re also taking credit for it at the same time. In this case you’re saying look how well I’ve raised my children, look at the good job I’ve done teaching them to be a good person. It’s one thing to say hey look what I witnessed this stranger do for another person but to advertise what you’ve done good for others is totally conceited and defeats the point. You shouldn’t feel that you need praise from others for doing the right thing. You just do it and if that alone doesn’t make you feel good or fulfill you then don’t do it.

  11. I try not to mention any decent thing I do, although I know I have at one time or the other. I would never put anything on Twitter or FB. However, it doesn’t bother me if others do as long as they don’t ever embarrass anyone. To take pictures of the person you helped is kind of over the top. To embarrass someone who is having problems anyway is just wrong. Not a day goes by that someone isnt posting and showing pictures of someone they helped. If that,person wants their picture all over the Internet, ok then. It’s still not good form.

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