They say if you know what you want from life, you should go and get it. More and more nowadays, if you want something, you post online that you want it and maybe others will just give it to you.
Remember when you could write out a list of stuff you wanted for Christmas and send it to Santa? As long as you weren’t greedy and expecting every single pony and Red Rider BB gun on that list to show up under the tree, you could be pretty sure of getting cool gifts. As we got older, we learned that blatant detailing of acceptable presents is kind of tacky, and maybe you should keep your desires to yourself unless asked.
No longer. Widespread use of the Web has made it socially acceptable to beg for stuff again.
There are still rules. You can’t just blast onto Twitter asking for random expensive gifts (unless you’re a hot girl), so take heed.
• It’s still polite to wait to be asked. It’s the week before your birthday. No one’s asked what you want yet. Cool to e-mail a link to your WishList.com account to everyone in your address book? Nope. Either they’ve taken care of it already or they’re not planning on getting you a darn thing. You’re a grownup now, geez. Count yourself lucky if HR gets one cake for everybody born that month.
Once someone broaches the subject, of course, you’re free to answer. As long as you’re not instructing each individual what they’re responsible for buying for you. Which is why it’s important to …
• Keep it passive and casual. The great thing about wishlists at online stores is that you can totally pass them off as something you keep for yourself. “Oh, yeah, I’m just reminding myself what games I want to buy for my console. I guess you can look at it, you know, for ideas, sure.”
My fiancée and I have links to our registry on our “wed site” — just a few pages with pictures, directions and travel options for out-of-town guests. You can’t just put ‘We’re registered at Costington’s!” on your invitations, apparently, but you can share the address of the site celebrating your love. Aww.
The key is to always be one step away from handing the list to people. Including it at the bottom of your Facebook profile? OK. Posting it on your Wall? Not so much.
• Make sure there’s something in it for the giver. Especially if there’s no traditional gift-giving occasion coming up, it’s quite gauche to ask family and friends to pony up just so you can pursue some daft hobby. But online, there’s no pressure, and you can discover people doing neat stuff that you can be a part of just by giving a little cash.
That’s the specialty of Kickstarter.com, which lets you set up a donation page for whatever activity you’ve decided to pursue. Doesn’t even have to be charity or nonprofit causes. Maybe it’s a laptop and mobile broadband card so you can webcast your kid’s soccer games live, or a small amount of capital to start a side business. Most successful Kickstarter campaigns offer some kind of incentive, like first copies of whatever you create with the funding, but most important is the feeling that the donator is part of something cool.
If your own acquaintances don’t come through for your project, there’s always AwesomeFoundation.org. They give out $1,000 grants for your “crazy brilliant idea,” just because they like neat stuff. Worth a shot, huh?