Twitter is such a powerful tool when it’s used correctly.
But too many times it’s not.
For the Federal Student Aid Office, it’s become a curse.
The twitter account for FAFSA, the Federal Financial Aid Application System used by nearly all college students in the country, tweeted a popular meme from the movie “Bridesmaids”.
Whoever handles the twitter for FAFSA was probably trying to be funny while encouraging students to fill out their financial aid application.
Many Twitter users, however, weren’t laughing.
In the movie, the character Annie says, “Help me. I’m poor,” to a flight attendant when she’s trying to move from coach to first class on an airplane.
It’s a meme I’ve seen hundreds of times, and usually, I find it funny. That wasn’t the case this time.
FAFSA tweeted, “If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA,” with the meme.
Quickly, it started to receive negative feedback. Followers weren’t amused the organization was poking fun at poverty.
Besides being distasteful, it also helps feed the idea only the country’s low-income students receive financial aid, which isn’t true.
Many colleges and universities, including my alma mater, require students to turn in an application to be considered for school-specific grants and scholarships.
It’s a tool that is supposed to be used to help overwhelmed students and parents determine the best ways to pay for the education they need.
In addition to portraying the misconception, the tweet also poked fun at those struggling to make it.
Being poor isn’t comical. It’s a sad situation too many people endure.
I laughed when I saw the movie. But a federal agency poking fun at such a big issue isn’t humorous.
The biggest issue I have with the tweet is it seems the Federal Student Aid office is completely blind to a real challenge facing this country.
Debt from student loans is out of control for many Americans, and this office is charged with finding money to make higher education more attainable.
It’s not the proper time, not that I think there is one, to make light of whether students can afford to go to college or not, especially when so many students are struggling to pay the thousands of dollars of debt they acquired to receive a diploma.
The New York Times published a photo essay last week featuring twenty-somethings who still live with their parents because of the financial trap they’re in from student loans.
The essay says one in five those who are in their 20s and early 30s lives with his or her parents, and 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them. To top that statistic, more than half of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed.
I have more debt than what I’ll earn this year, and that’s hard to deal with every day. Most students aren’t lucky enough to leave college debt-free.
So it feels like a slap in the face to see that meme and tweet from the agency that’s supposed to do everything it can to help make higher education possible.
The office soon removed the tweet from its timeline and apologized.
So it’s something we can forgive, but offers a lesson we shouldn’t forget: Poverty is a problem, not a punchline.