The @HiddenCash Twitter phenomenon is bullshit

In recent weeks the Twitter account @HiddenCash has received several hundred thousand followers. As of writing this, it’s over 345K. And most of the feedback it has received is positive.

I hate to be the old-timey Scrouge to the loveable Scrouge McDuck that is this account, but I think it’s bullshit. Considering the class tensions in San Francisco, this kind of social experiment is not what the city needs. It is tone deaf.

 The Premise

The premise is clever, no doubt. An anonymous rich person hides envelopes of money ($100-$200) and hides them. The Twitter account provides scavenger-type hints and the hunt is on. Find the money, take a photo and spread the word about how awesome @hiddencash is!!

I can’t knock the people looking for the hidden cash. Who doesn’t like money? Who hasn’t thought about finding the pot of gold? Who doesn’t like a fun mystery/hunt and this one with a treasure at the end! Huzzah!

But I do not see this as a social experiment for “good” as it is self-described.

1. The people finding this money benefit, but they aren’t the people in San Francisco who are truly in need.

I can imagine the Onion satire of this account. A hint would read: “Find the latest cash drop under the sleeping homeless person!!!!” (Insert Susie Cagle comic image here. Joke credit Greg Thomas from Circa)

Anyone following this account on Twitter with the free time/energy to go for a wild goose chase to find $100 is probably not somebody who needs the charity in any REAL life/death manner.

This is San Francisco. We have a very real and very serious poverty problem. I find it incredibly sad that this rich individual would throw money away without thinking about where it could make a real impact on a person’s life (*taking a selfie with found money is not a real impact*). Even if this person does already give to established charities (and the I believe that is the case – at least according to the word of an anonymous account) thousands of dollars is literally being thrown away. And while it might be insignificant to them, it could mean the difference between a fulfilling life for those in need.

2. A “Good” act is not for entertainment or to build social media credentials.

The German philosopher Kant argued that a truly good deed has no ulterior motives except to be good itself (or to perform one’s duty).  Similarly he thought that anytime we treat somebody as a means and not an end in themselves – the act is immoral.

At the very least @HiddenCash is spreading the wealth for their own entertainment, not because they want to help people.


An even more malicious interpretation is that @HiddenCash is building up a Twitter account with massive followers to serve his/her own purpose some day in the future. Twitter accounts with 300k followers is worth….. money. Or at the very least power and ego-serving.

Look, I’m not saying this isn’t an interesting experiment. It is. But it’s not an experiment in charity or doing good. Instead, this looks like the experiment of a rich person in SF who is out of touch with what it is to struggle in a city where a class divide is stark and growing.


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