Two Fridays ago, I whipped out my checkbook and handed my attorney her retainer without blinking an eye, or keeling over from a massive coronary. I was able to do this because 122 people donated a total of $5255 to help me regain custody of my son, and stop my ex from sending him to a residential facility. The money — over $200 beyond my $5000 goal — was raised via crowd-funding in just a few days. Some of it came from friends and family — a huge shout-out, by the way, to my sister, who donated a hefty chunk.
But the majority came from people I knew only by way of the Internet. Fellow bloggers. Social media followers. And people those people had urged to donate to someone known only by a pseudonym. Word spread via the normal routes on the web: I posted to my social media platforms, my followers shared the link, and so on. And after just a few days, a cyber-village formed, and made it possible for me to take on a formidable foe whose wealth and privilege has enabled him to skirt around the rules and obligations that regular folks have to follow.
Thanks to my gofundme campaign, I now have a court date, and the likelihood that a world-class child support dodger will finally have to pony up some money. Even more important, I now have the likelihood that I will regain something I never should have had to relinquish in the first place: joint custody of my son.
My story should erase any doubt that the Internet can be a force for good. Blogs do provide a service. They dispense information, provide support, and bring meaning to people’s lives. Writers who would be passed over by agents and publishers can create their own brand, build a platform, and attract readers on the basis of merit and not because their parents paid their way through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Besides being a great equalizer, the Internet can also affect social change. People can support issues they care about through donations, or just by spreading the word. The reason I was able to raise this money so quickly was not because I’m Pauline. It was because my story strikes a universal chord. People want to see what so rarely happens in life, espcially in this era of corporate greed and grinding-down of the lower and middle class: they want the Underdog to win. They want justice served. And they want to be able to do something to make those things happen.
I have no idea if I’ll have the kind of day I want in court. But at least I’ll have the chance. If you had told me three years ago, at the nadir of my existence, that I could get custody back from my ex, I never would have believed it. And I never, EVER, would be in this position without the Internet, and without the incredible people who hang out on the web.