An epidemic is spreading.
It’s not the flu; although this malady is equally unpleasant, lacks an effective vaccine, can be contagious, and indeed triggers the urge to vomit. It’s entitled “meanness.”
Some argue the cause is social media.
No less than President Barack Obama stated that social media is destroying our discourse. As much as I respect the former president, I disagree. What’s demolishing it is that social media provides a platform for the coarse, boorish, cowardly ilk to hide behind a veil of partial anonymity, giving them what they perceive as permission to air without repercussion anything they desire to anyone they want. What one would never say face-to-face is — to them — considered acceptable in the cyber landscape. Sure, humans have harmed one another since Cain and Abel, but Cain couldn’t hide behind a cloak of technology and do so with impunity.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not another lamentation about the evils of social media and technology, and how they’re ripping to shreds the genteel fabric of society.
They are merely tools; akin to hammers and shovels. Can one cause harm with these implements? Of course, but, more accurate is that when handled with positive and original intent, they can undeniably bring us together to affect positive change.
Example one: When I was a child living in Michigan and we wanted to phone relatives in California, we had to wait until after 11PM in order to get lower rates. We also trusted no one else on our party line was using the phone at that moment. Calls were rushed, each family member allocated 15 seconds to shout over the static before hanging up in under three minutes to avoid additional costs. Today, we connect face-to-face at any time with virtually anyone in any place at almost no cost.
On a more significant scale, when disasters strike, victims mark themselves as “safe” on social media. Funds are quickly raised to help rebuild. News is disseminated; families are reunited. Social media and the now-ubiquitous web of communication tools have given voice to socio and political movements, affecting change for the better. Doctors can even treat from afar. None of these could have happened without social media and technology.
Brought together in a manner not possible before social media, kindness movements are springing up to combat the nastiness oozing into our global culture.
People are coming together to share compassion and kindness, far beyond the “random acts” meme so well known.
“World Kindness Day” (November 13) was created to “highlight good deeds in the community because kindness is the common thread that unites us all.” Search for “kindness habit” and find 18,100,000 results. “Effects of kindness” uncovers more than twice that number, including a scientific study, “The Five Beneficial Effects of Kindness.” These include greater happiness, improved heart health, slower aging, better relationships – and a ripple effect triggering others to do the same.
Yes, there’s a dark, rotting, putrid underbelly of the internet where sad, frustrated, frightened folks troll the web spreading unhappiness.
But we are pushing back via small, repeated acts of kindness.
It’s effortless to open a door for someone behind you entering a building, or allow another car to enter traffic in front of you. How about this? Walk into a coffee shop and drop a dollar in the tip jar; don’t even order anything. Watch the reaction. It’ll make you smile. Smile more often; say “hello” to strangers. Compliment a clerk; better yet tell the store’s manager how happy you are with the clerk’s service.
I joined a movement dedicated to developing kindness habits over the next year. Connect with us.
After all, if there was ever a time where we need kindness and compassion, it’s now.
About the author: About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or 707.442.6243.