If there’s one thing I hate more than pretending not to have any change when inept accordion-playing buskers pass a hat around the subway car, it’s Jumo, the ugly nonprofit Facebook for charities. It doesn’t work and will probably never accomplish anything.
When Jumo was getting ready for launch, a guy could practically feel the drool puddles from a small army of social-media buzz junkies gathering around his Chuck Taylors. Chris Hughes, the adorable blonde “Facebook co-founder” (Yeah, remember the guy whose job it was to reach out to Yale and Columbia in The Social Network? Great founding.) who used Twitter to help Barack Obama become president was behind the project.
As it turns out, the website that helps people engage in perpetual real-time narcissism makes a pretty bogus inspiration for a site designed to get people thinking about anything but themselves. But Jumo manages to be a dud even if you ignore the totally flawed premise. It’s suspicious, confusing, ugly and boring.
To get started on Jumo, you better get in the spirit of giving right away, because the website demands that users hand over a bunch of Facebook data right off the bat. Jumo wants to know your basic Facebook information and access your data whenever it wants. And it wants to post to your wall.
After that, Jumo makes fake activism easier than ever before. Pick a couple nebulous causes you’re vaguely interested in (are you into “Environment and Animals” or “Human Rights”? — you can pick both!). Soon you’ll be confronted with a Facebook Wall-style page that displays articles and other material that sort of fall within the set of interests you chose. Right now I’m looking at two posts about refugees, something about sea turtles and a promo for a documentary about landfills. Next to each item is a little green button that’s resembles Facebook’s “Like” button except it says “Care.” Caring was never so easy. Thanks to Jumo, I can care about 50 tragedies by the time I’m done eating my Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat. It’s soothing to watch that little green button turn from green to white. “Care” becomes “Cared.” There are a million Ivory Coast refugees. More in Somalia. Public schools in Detroit are failing. Click, click, click. Care, care, care.
Just like voting for a president, “Caring” is easy. Too bad Amnesty International doesn’t free political prisoners on the strength of clicks. Anyone who cares about doing more than making empty gestures for Amnesty is going to have to actually write a letter. (You can send money through Jumo, but it doesn’t use PayPal, so get ready to give your credit card number to yet another website.)
Part of the confusion owes to an uncomfortable fact: Jumo is as ugly as a shaved rabbit. Honestly, I’ve seen Geocities pages that looked better. Part of being a serious charity website is looking like you’re serious. And the Reebok Pumps color scheme isn’t helping here. I haven’t seen this much royal blue and lime green since I thumbed through a Pac Sun catalog. When people give money to Jumo they probably expect to get a pair of board shorts in the mail.
Look, Jumo isn’t bad for charities. It’s way too useless to do any harm. Jumo’s users are the kinds of people who if you asked them if they cared about a certain humanitarian disaster they would say “Oh yeah that’s awful,” and if you asked them what they did about it they might say “I voted for Obama.” Or, if they were really engaged, maybe they paid some money to get a little Japanese flag onto their Tumblr avatars after the earthquake. Fixing problems isn’t fun. Activism is boring and hard and frustrating. And that’s not going to change just because someone made an ugly, buggy version of Facebook and said it’s for a good cause.
Grow up, you babies.