With social media, now more than ever, we are practicing being unkind just because we have a screen standing between ourselves and the individuals reading our words.
Sentences that we would never dare to speak out loud are said in the most blunt and hurtful way at the click of a button and without a second thought.
Why do we feel so entitled to comment on people’s lives (especially those that we don’t even know)?
Right after you click the send button on a comment, you will never know the effect that your words have had on the individual on the other side of the screen.
For example, the model’s photograph that you just commented on saying that she is too thin may have struggled with anorexia. Her boss threatened to release her contract if she couldn’t lose 10 more pounds, further adding to the monster of this disease.
There is another photograph of a woman in her bra and underwear that comes up on your Facebook newsfeed and you decide to comment on her photo. You believe that her behavior is attention seeking and degrading so you comment saying that she looks like a sl*t. However, what you didn’t know is that this woman just got divorced from her abusive husband and her greatest fear is that she will never experience being in love again.
The simple comments that took you three seconds to write will stay with these women for the rest of their lives. The comments that are made by their social media entourage (aka every stranger on social media that feels entitled to share their opinion) have slowly but surely chipped away at their confidence and reminded them of exactly how their fear has developed in the first place. This isn’t making excuses for people. It’s being compassionate and understanding.
A photo is not always telling of who we are.
Just because someone from our technology dependent generation decides to post a photo of themselves under a palm tree in Hawaii saying #happy does not necessarily mean that they are happy.
There are many stories behind the smiles that grace your Instagram newsfeed.
If there is one thing that I have learned through working as a teacher, which is a job that requires me to work with individuals of all kinds, all ages, and of all different beliefs, is that everybody has a story.
Everybody has a great struggle and everybody has an insecurity so deep that all they want is for someone to tell them that they will love and accept them unconditionally, even with their greatest insecurity included as a part of the package deal.
As humans, we are all trying our best to find success in each day and are wired to be performing at our highest capacity for what has been placed on our plate. This often leads us to be so focused on being efficient at home and in the workplace that we forget how our daily encounters, via the Internet or in person, can truly make or break someone else’s day. We forget how the simplest encounters can strike a chord with someone else’s deepest insecurity.
So how do you shine your light in a generation that is hiding behind a computer screen?
Make kindness a mindful practice.
Anytime someone makes a comment that sets you off, it’s because of his or her ego.
Our ego is the very thing that makes us human.
Your ego is what wishes that your ex-boyfriend would live the rest of his life single for the illogical reasons that you both moved on and are now growing into more mature stages in your lives. Your ego is what makes you jealous when your best friend becomes engaged before you do, even though you both used to spend your nights in high-school chatting about how you would be the first one in your group of friends to live out the Cinderella story. When you can dilute your ego as much as humanly possible, this is when you become kind.
But what if, as humans, we all decided to actually want the best for each other? What if we trusted so deep in our life path that we truly believed that something great is being planned for us?
If you went to a job interview and didn’t get the position that you could have sworn you had coming right to you, could you accept that maybe you weren’t meant to have that job or were not the best candidate for that job? What if you were actually bold enough to congratulate the individual who got the job over you and acknowledge their hard work?
This is the type of kindness that could help to reverse someone else’s feelings towards their own insecurity. This is the type of kindness that allows us to see the light through our journey’s dark tunnel.
As humans, all we want to be is noticed and acknowledged for our hard work and for what we believe to be our life’s purpose. Unfortunately, through the misusage of technology we often forget the lasting effects of the unkind messages that we send without a second thought to the person on the other side of the computer screen in cyber space.
For example, just a few weeks ago, I published an article about healthy eating and while the majority of the comments that I received were filled with such kindness, I also received an abundance of “hate mail” or unkindness. I wrote an article with an inspirational tone that was promoting the idea of living your best life through health. Some of the options that I gave to stay healthy were to eliminate dairy and to practice veganism (as two of my 44 suggestions) and these are some of the comments that I woke up to when I checked my phone the next morning.
“-Yo, this lady is an idiot. I knew we were in trouble when I read “vegan, gym addicted, nutrition enthusiast” aka hipster eating disorder
-too much bullshit. ….. is not good for you
-Lolzz dude Aaron, check out how ridiculous this article is. This article could be titled “44 Jokes That Impact Your Health In Absolutely Zero Ways”
-Vegan propaganda. How about you post tips that are in line with current research from educated experts, rather than your own personal beliefs?
-“Please don’t tell me eating animals is bad. VEGAN PROPAGANDA! That’s what it is. Of course. Haha those fucking vegans, so stupid. haha lol”’
But what people did not know about me, the human on the other side of the computer screen in cyber space, is that I truly do believe in veganism, not because it’s a “fad diet” or “bro science” but because I believe in protecting the animals that cannot protect themselves and I believe in the health benefits as well. The individual who they were calling an idiot and a skinny b**** in other comments, spent nights researching her material and has seen her family transform debilitating diseases from living this lifestyle and was simply sharing her story.
This experience made me realize how rare it is to find kindness today.
On social media, if you take the same three seconds that it takes to post a hurtful comment, and instead post a comment saying, “beautiful picture”, it may have been the only time that this particular girl was told that she was beautiful all year. A simple comment saying “great idea” on someone’s blog post may give them the courage to post purse their dream career.
We are always so forgiving to our friends and family when they lose their temper with us or if they make a decision that probably wasn’t the best, but what if we had the courage to treat strangers like this instead of letting our ego get the best of us?
What if we actually had the courage to be happy for others when they experience success, even during our own times of our failure?
If you believe in shining a light and making a path for someone else during their time of darkness then take my kindness challenge. For one week make kindness a daily practice. Go out of your way at least one time each day to make someone else’s day brighter. Leave a note on your spouse’s dresser before they go to work telling them how much you appreciate them or post an inspiring comment on a stranger’s social media page telling them that you have been inspired by their work.