4 Reasons People Get Suckered Into Idiotic Kickstarters
Recently, the Internet exploded over a Kickstarter campaign devoted to making potato salad, and when we say "exploded," we mean "contributed over 50,000 godforsaken dollars" to the fundraiser. Apparently there's a decent number of people out there who think burning their parents' money is either a genius form of artistic expression or some kind of amazing joke that only they get.
Those people are wrong, of course. While contributors thought they were participating in a quirky meta joke, they were really fueling their own egos as they clamored to belong to the coolest, newest, most misunderstood club on the block. How do we know? Look at who lined up at the door.
Narcissists Contribute to Dumb Kickstarter Campaigns to Get Attention
Karaoke is both universally hated and universally popular because our egos are greater than our intolerance for watching drunken people throat-wail the Offspring while waiting for the mic. We can't all be rock stars, but we really like pretending we are. Similarly, we can't all come up with some hip new Internet phenomenon, but we can fund one while desperately waving our hands in the air, like this guy, who pledged $10,000 to the potato salad campaign.
"Mom, you can just call me to voice your disappointment with my life choices."
While later pulling his pledge because of "lack of communication" (i.e., attention), at first glance this hapless young dupe may seem like a douche supreme for throwing money at a fucking starch in the hopes of landing interviews. The sad truth, however, is that he totally could.
"The word 'hero' gets thrown around in a lot of places nowadays ... this is one of them."
That would be the Verge riding the ironically worn tailcoats of the hipster express, facetiously calling the people involved "heroes" to put themselves on the cool side of the joke. After all, the entire reason this bullshit ball got rolling is because a news site reported on it back when it only had $100 of funding. The more the news said "Look at this hilarious Kickstarter!" the more people threw money to be a part of the joke. But why would being part of a joke actually matter so much in the first place?
We're Programmed to Look for Communities
Earlier this year, one guy started a Kickstarter to chart the deliciousness of a burrito, and 250 backers gave him over $1,000 to do it. Back when getting $1,000 for a burrito was extreme, one guy showed up in the Kickstarter's comments more times than we're even comfortable displaying:
"Mom, you can just call me on the banana I pretend is a phone to voice your disappointment with my life choices."
Christ. Someone should Kickstart a way to simulate the warmth of a crowd so that guy doesn't end up throwing burritos at people on the street. Why would someone spend so much time on something so trivial? If we had to guess, it would be because the human need for inclusion is so embedded in our brains that the absence of social interaction is actually akin to physical pain.
We want to be a part of this stupid fucking gag because it creates a kind of exclusivity in our lives. That's why the potato salad Kickstarter is littered with comments like this:
"It used to be about the potatoes, man. Fucking sellouts."
It's not enough that we're giving to something silly; we have to tell everyone about it as well. For a few dollars, we get to stand on the special party side of the monkey glass to later tell our grandchildren about how we participated in the historic Dadaist potato salad movement of 2014, because that's surely what this is going to be remembered as.
Getting on a Bandwagon Means Trying to Steer It
Along with swallowing your tongue via rage seizures, the second danger of scrolling through these Kickstarter comments is being drawn into one of the hundreds of other stupid funding projects being plugged by various desperate strangers:
Notice a pattern? These guys aren't just here in the spirit of camaraderie; they're hoping to cash in on the madness by steering some dollars over to their own campaigns. And then there are the potato salad copycats, also known as the direct-to-DVD knockoffs of the potato salad fundraising world:
Congrats, you're the Asylum studio of root vegetable-based picnic side dishes.
It All Boils Down to Herd Mentality
There's a reason people are willing to shock strangers to death because a dude in a white coat tells them to, or why you can draw crowds with just a few people standing in one place looking at nothing. It's called herd mentality, and it gives people the ability to join in on something without fully understanding it:
Great. Potato salad hipster is a thing now.
We're dealing with evolutionary impulses that have been there from the days when we were shitting and living in our own fear, which is why it only takes 5 percent of a crowd to steer the entire group if they seem to know what they're doing. We're all just herds of cattle following whoever moos the loudest.
And that's kind of the real joke here -- not that everyone has ironically funded this guy's potato salad, but that they are literally taking a symbolic stand against charity by proving their ability to throw their money away because they think it makes them special, even though everyone else is doing it.
Ah yes, the joyous irony of TOTALLY not being suckered into something.