Birthday bulletin reinforces knowledge

By Kevin Wilson

Like every third person in the United States, I have a blog filled with trivial details about my life. What makes mine different from the others is this: I know it’s trivial.

Nowhere else can you see dumb thoughts like mine, treated with such seriousness. (If a 5.5-ounce can of V8 advertises a full serving of vegetables and a 12-ounce can advertises two full servings, are people drinking an ounce for no reason?)

Sometimes I’ll borrow from my column to fill my blog, and sometimes it’s vice versa. And sometimes I’ll point out absurdity by being absurd.

This happened a few weeks ago, when I continuously got an online bulletin about how I shouldn’t buy fuel on May 15. The bulletin said if everybody promised not to buy fuel, it would cause a $2 billion sting to the oil industry.

Never mind the math being faulty. Or that it only means oil companies get our money on a different day. Or that e-mail is generally an unreliable format for information (go visit breakthechain.org if you don’t believe me).

But mainly, I was upset because the planned boycott date of May 15 was my birthday.

That’s when I decided to do something. The counter-bulletin I devised was simple: Instead of pretending you won’t buy fuel, send me a dollar for my birthday.

I called my former coworker Marc to ask him his opinion on it, and I was answered with laughter. He felt it couldn’t possibly hurt, and he agreed with me that it would probably further the cause if I promised a charity donation.

With that conversation, the bulletin was born. People could donate $1 to an online money transfer site, or they could contact me for an actual mailing address. If I got more than $500, I’d donate at least $200 to Habitat for Humanity.

The bulletin went to all of my online contacts, and many forwarded it to their online contacts. By some estimates, my message went to about 750,000 people in less than two hours.

My bulletin, labeled as a social experiment, resulted in several e-mails and notes of encouragement, but few donations. By the time everything came to a close a week later, I had collected roughly $45 for my birthday, including $40 from my brother Justin.

I’m still waiting on $2 promised to me by a friend, but I pretty much consider my social experiment complete. In the end, I proved only what I knew all along: Sending information out via bulk e-mail and online bulletins will do nothing more than clutter up the inboxes of your friends and family.

Oh, wait, there was one more thing I got out of the experience, as Marc predicted in our phone conversation:

Me: So, it’s pretty unlikely I’m going to get thousands of dollars, right?

Marc: Yeah, pretty much. At worst, you’ll have something good for your next column.

I hope he was right.

Kevin Wilson is the interim managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached by e-mail at:

kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com