By Sahana Suresh - Rang De Volunteer
There is a reason why people call it “going viral”. Ideas are infectious agents, potentially catastrophic and undisputedly life changing. There are the good ideas…and there are the bad. The personal computer as we know it today is a revolutionary idea that transformed into a worldwide demand. Bad ideas also have the potential to catch on. The phenomenon known as “panic” is the cascading spread of the idea of fear. The entire spectrum of ideas, good and bad emerge as the driving force of every action or decision.
So how does a concept like Rang De and making a difference catch on and go viral? As I sought to answer these questions, I considered the role of youth in today’s society. We live in a technological zeitgeist and youth are at the forefront. From social networking sites to advancements in bioengineering, younger individuals are eager to share their ideas and change the world. However, is there a place for youth in philanthropy? Are the youth capable of truly making difference? If so, what do they have to gain from getting involved with initiatives like Rang De?
What would a typical college student do with $100? Save for weekend clubbing, new furniture or something nice from the Apple Store? Could one fathom a student investing that money for a cause? Sadly, while youth are often characterized as highly cynical, apathetic, and stingy, there are many under-25s highly involved in politics, activism, and social causes. Youth activism in Tahir Square is an example. After a series of successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the strength of the liberation movement was attributed to the youth openness to internet technology. Amidst turbulent times and chaos, technology is a grand unifier. It allows groups of various faiths and backgrounds to connect with the purpose of creating real social change and makes it possible for youth to make a difference. Every year, countless teenagers run miles, bearing the inevitably cold and damp Seattle weather to raise money for cancer research through Relay for Life. The tears in their eyes during the Luminaria ceremony which honors cancer victims, tells me that making a difference is an intrinsic part of human nature. Many question why, youth should get involved or help a stranger in a foreign country start up a business, but the absolute truth is that they have everything to gain. Generosity is good for the heart.
When people argue that the youth are becoming increasingly cynical towards social causes, I realize that the root of the problem is in the blatant mass media efforts to persuade teenagers. Younger people are generally suspicious of overt attempts by marketers to take up an idea or product. However, they are more likely to take up causes which have the potential to grow organically through word of mouth and, brochures and leaflets are simply supplementary. Both positive and negative word of mouth can affect the fortunes of a company. The process of spreading an idea is rather interesting. Initial seeds could be planted by the organization through sponsored events or benefits. However, in order for an idea to spread, subsequent growth should be entirely driven by youth with minimal guidance or influence from the organization. An idea spreads by virtue of close connections and shared beliefs/values and will go viral if it extends to broader communities via a loose bridge of acquaintances. Organizations can simply help by creating venues for the building of these bridges.
Still, what does the youth have to gain from spreading the word. Popularity reigns as the primary motivation for most of today’s youth. Establishing the right connections and being part of a trend guarantees your position as a “somebody” and bolsters your social status. So why not take advantage of this and use social networking and word of mouth as a means of creating a cascade of charitable involvement? Get involved with social change. Spread the word, tell your friends, make sure the idea lives on and build bridges. Ultimately, be a part of the Rang De experience.