Celeb suicide initiative falls flat
//by JJ Brewis

How much value is a “digital life” really worth? Apparently not very much, as a recent celebrity fundraiser flunk proved. Digital Death, which sounds just as obnoxious as the name suggests, didn't exactly go off with a bang.

Starting on the morning of December 1, participating celebrities pulled the plug on their online personas with final Facebook updates and tweets asking their fans to donate money to the cause. Until the sum of one million dollars was raised, the celebrities were to abstain from posting completely. The idea was that these celebrities' fans would miss their Twitter and Facebook updates so much, they'd be forced to fork over a minimum 10 dollar donation towards the Digital Death cause.

The campaign was launched on World Aids Day by Alicia Keys and her charity organization Keep A Child Alive, a group focused on raising funds for the AIDS infected youth population of Africa. The basis of this particular campaign was to raise a million dollars as quickly as possible, sacrificing the digital lives of celebrities, ranging from the popular (Keys, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake) to the less relevant (Ryan Seacrest, Serena Williams).

Despite attempting to raise funds for a worthy source, the campaign suffered, most likely due to its grisly imagery and self-centered nature, a failure of major Hollywood players to tug at both their fans' heartstrings and pocketbooks. Most likely, it was just a stunt to raise cash while capitalizing on the public's constant craving of celebrity contact.

The concept of raising awareness could have been a major component of the campaign, but of course, the focus was on the lack of celebrity updates than the actual recipients of the donations. Many people may be nonchalant about charities, particularly during the holidays, and this was a missed opportunity on the organizers' part to raise focus.

The website exploits the fans' love of their celebrities, and minimizes information about the actual charity. The website comes off as tacky and exploitative, reading, "No more Twitter or Facebook updates from any of them. No more knowing where they are, what they had for dinner, or what interesting things are happening in their lives. From here on out, they're dead. Kaput. Finished." What's the Twitter hashtag for that? "#firstworldproblems"?

In a week, despite heavy star power that also included Jennifer Hudson, the Kardashians, Elijah Wood, and others, the campaign suffered low donations, with not even half the proposed funds coming in. It took billionaire Stewart Rahr to step in and donate the remaining $500,000 to save the fledgling campaign from being an embarrassing, fizzled failure.

But not only does Rahr's chaotic bailout defeat the purpose of fans coming together to donate collectively, it shows the lack of inspiration and effectiveness in the group's approach to the cause. When raising money to fight death, the celebrities became the face of stupidity by comparing their “digital death” to the same equivalent to those dying of AIDS, the exact folk they were, ironically, raising funds for. On the site's main page, gruesome red headlines displayed that each celebrity was dead, accompanied by terribly inappropriate photos of the celebrities lying, well-dressed and made-up, in a casket holding their cell phones. Despite the idea of raising money for a worthy cause, this message reeks of condescension, with the faces of the campaign made up and dressed in fine threads. In Kim Kardashian's case, her photo showcased her lying in a casket with her breasts barely contained in her top. Looks like death is less about serious issues than looking sexy.

In classic celebrity fashion, Usher, one of the main faces of the whole campaign, started posting to his Twitter account only four days into the campaign, before even half the donation amount had been met. Despite announcing his “final will and testament” on his account on November 30, he gave up long before the target was matched. What does it say about a campaign when not even its spokesperson can back it up?

As thoughtful as it is to take time out of one's life to do something nice for someone else, the group responsible for “Digital Death” had a lot of brains and ideas in their corner, and could have thought more clearly about this whole concept before launching it. Had the campaign been organized in a different fashion, and matched with less offensive visuals, perhaps fans would have been more willing to donate. As much as a delight as it might be to get “digital life” back from a favourite celebrity, sadly the ones really affected don't get a second chance once they're gone.

//JJ Brewis, Art Director

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