Lucy, a sweet-looking toddler with wispy blond hair, needs $450 for head shots because a talent agency is "very interested." Her mother wants you to chip in to "start her on her road to success."
A Washington University student would like some help buying a piano because she can't use the practice rooms on campus. They aren't always open, you see.
There's a local high school student with a 3.67 GPA who wants to take a 10-day trip to Costa Rica during spring break. Her mother would like you pitch in, because her daughter "could really use a trip like this for stress relief."
Or you could throw in a few dollars for a high school rugby team in San Francisco that needs money for a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
These are all public pleas for donations from the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com, which has collectively raised a billion dollars for a multitude of causes in the past year alone.
Giving has always been a social act, one that binds people together and encourages reciprocity. Now, it's also a social media act.
In one way, it's been a blessing to be able to help people with unexpected funeral or medical expenses, or those dealing with some other crisis or disaster. It's rewarding for the giver to help a friend or stranger during a difficult time.
It's not so rewarding to see people begging for money for boob jobs, lavish birthday parties or vacations.
One mom, and certainly not the only one, posted that she wants to throw her 1-year-old a $1,000 birthday bash; won't you pitch in? (For the record, she surpassed her goal and raised $1,095.)
The number of birthday-related campaigns within the "Celebrations and Special Events" category on GoFundMe has "skyrocketed," according to a site spokesman. There was a 330 percent increase in donation volume for birthday campaigns between 2013 and 2014.
Sites such as GoFundMe have a financial stake in promoting and normalizing this uncouth behavior: They take a 5 percent cut of whatever is raised. There's also a 3 percent fee for their payment processors. Your charity or good will is their for-profit business enterprise. Also, it's "giver beware" in each of these transactions, because there's no oversight to see if the donations go toward their stated purpose.
Offline, if someone asks for money (for anything), and someone else wants to give, it's a private interaction between those two parties.
But when that transaction happens in a public space, it reminds the rest of us that we have to teach our children a value we may have taken for granted: It's not acceptable to ask friends or strangers to pay for your luxuries or to fund your wish list. The sheer volume of such shameless requests -- for things from dream weddings and cosmetic surgery to children's hobbies or sports equipment -- makes me wonder why anyone thinks it's OK.
Has crowdfunding replaced the hustle? Or has it become the new hustle?
The apparent logic is: If someone wants to give, why shouldn't I ask? There's a simple answer: It's greedy and lacking in self-pride. Would you stand on a street corner, holding a sign, asking for spare change for your daughter's cheerleading uniform or your son's football camp? Because it looks just as ridiculous to pass the tin cup on the information superhighway.
You're not asking people to fund a shortfall in your budget. You're asking them to fund a shortfall in your priorities.
No one should feel guilty for declining to donate to another able-bodied person's wish list. The world is full of causes and people with needs more compelling than a birthday trip to Mexico.
In fact, those who succumb to social pressure when they are tagged on Facebook with such ridiculous fundraising requests are enabling a culture of entitlement.
Here's a radical idea: Go fund yourself.