The media has a lot to answer for. So does social media. But so do we. Some people talk about ‘human comms’. But it’s humans who sit at the heart of bad behaviour and so we can all play a part in being kinder online. And Random Act of Kindness Day is a good place to start.
by Ian Curwen
Three simple words. But in today’s world, they feel quite important. They also feel easier to say than perhaps they are to live by.
Today is Random Act of Kindness Day. I’ve wanted to write a blog about kindness for some time, but today, given recent events, this feels especially appropriate.
I didn’t post a great deal on social media this weekend, but Caroline Flack’s death and the reaction to this got me thinking. On Saturday evening and Sunday, social media was a dark place to lurk. People were upset and angry, and the resulting debate was raw, too raw.
Social media provides so many positive opportunities and experiences in our lives, but as most people now realise, it can also be a very dark place too. Scarily, we don’t always realise this is the case.
So how can we recognise when social media is having a negative impact? When are we impacting on others? And more importantly, what can we do about it?
For some time, I followed someone on Twitter whose views were the polar opposite to mine on almost every issue. I found myself getting angry at many of their posts and would sometimes respond saying so. Even if I didn’t share my response, I’d certainly think it.
And then one day, I realised something seemingly obvious, but also quite profound.
I didn’t have to follow them.
I stopped, and my mental health improved. Not in an abstract sense, but very literally: I was angry less often.
The improvement was immediate and significant. Not only did my health improve but I was also able to filter out – or even block – comments that provoked anger much more quickly.
Having your say?
Social media makes it easier to interact with people. This can be a great thing – it’s brilliant to be able to reach out to a long-lost friend, or to be able to say hello to a favourite author or actor.
The flip-side of this is that it’s also easy for people to share their criticism of people – especially those in the public domain.
And we now live in a world where people’s views are more extreme, and where those with strong views are the keenest to share and be heard.
Even on the most complex of issues, there seems very little room for nuance. You must pitch your tent in a camp and stay there forevermore.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the public’s eye, never mind in the public’s crosshairs. But it doesn’t take too much to realise that people are under scrutiny like never before.
And a quick tweet or comment on someone’s post might not feel in any way significant, but if it’s another criticism then it could easily be the straw that breaks a camel’s back.
Many people like the anonymity that social media allows. This is unlikely to be the case when you’re the one in the firing line, and where the people attacking you lack any kind of accountability. In that situation, it’s probably feels little bit more personal.
It doesn’t have to be like this. On Random Act of Kindness Day, why not do something kind. In fact, why not make a pledge to be more kind. This doesn’t have to mean something big. It could be as simple as leaving the negative comment or criticism unsaid.
We all use social media differently, but I think there are some common tips that we can all bear in mind.
Please do take the time to regularly review your social media use. If there are times that negatively impact on your mental health or where you might be impacting negatively on other people’s, then take a step back.
Remember that when you comment, you are doing so to another human who will read your comment.
Consider this being more kind – both to yourself and others.
Image via Tim Green