Our world is in need of digital kindness right now.
Technology gives us the amazing ability to communicate with those we might not ever encounter through other means. With the push of a button we can instantly connect with people around the globe.
But vast numbers of people feel ignored, unheard, misunderstood, maligned, discouraged, frustrated, alone. Instead of seeing others, we tend to use social media to focus on ourselves — our views, our perspectives, our grievances. We often forget there’s another human being on the other side of the screen.
DIGITAL KINDNESS SEES
Digital kindness recognizes that social media provides a distorted picture of a person’s real and complete life. Digital kindness is a commitment to seeing people as more than their social media posts or bios.
When we don’t see people, it’s easy to say and do things that hurt. It’s easy to be hurt by things they say and do. It’s easy to assume the worse … and to put people in boxes where they don’t really belong.
People are complicated, messy, inconsistent, idiosyncratic, and INTERESTING. No one is all good or all bad. If we look closely enough, there’s something to like, admire, or value about every person.
To be kind in digital spaces, we have to look past images and memes and headlines and posts – especially the ones that make us grit our teeth – and see every person as a complex and whole being … worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
DIGITAL KINDNESS LISTENS
One of the most profound acts of kindness – one that is very rare these days – is to listen, without judgement or agenda.
This is a world of talkers — 24-hours/7 days a week people are talking on television, radio, social media. Words, words, and more words are spilled through blogs, digital media, and content. With so many people talking, who’s listening?
We seem to have adopted the idea that we aren’t being true to ourselves and true to our beliefs if we don’t talk about them often and loudly. If we don’t vilify the other side and do everything in our power to demonstrate why it’s wrong or evil. There’s little room for kindness when we’re so busy passing judgment.
Why is it more important to be “ right” than to be kind?
Think about one of your deeply held beliefs. Something central to your identity. A belief that defines who you are. Now think: what could someone post that would make you change your mind? If we’re being honest, the answer is probably nothing. If nothing can convince us to change our minds, why do we think our social media posts will convince others to change theirs? Especially when those posts drip with judgment, condemnation, and contempt?
Everyone wants to be heard, respected, and understood. And everyone has a really good case why they should get to speak first. Very few are willing to listen and try to understand someone else. It leaves us at an impasse. Someone has to go first. In the name of digital kindness, let it be us.
DIGITAL KINDNESS CONNECTS
People use social media because they want to be seen and heard. Digital kindness acknowledges the existence of others in a positive and productive way.
Ask friendly questions.
Rejoice with those who are celebrating.
Mourn with those who are grieving.
Show concern and care for anyone who is lonely, hurting, or afraid.
Get to know those who are different from you.
Strive to see the humanity of those you disagree with.
Think about how your posts might make others feel.
I admit: a commitment to digital kindness can sometimes feel like a muzzle. I have opinions I’d like to share. I have thoughts I think are valid and worthy. I see people thundering away with fiery rhetoric – collecting applause and likes and shares – and there are moments where I wish I could add my voice to the noise. But I know that the applause and the fans come from people who already agree. Those posts don’t change minds. They don’t establish common ground. They preach to the choir. And where does that get us?
More importantly, I see how people are hurt by poorly worded opposing views – and I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want an ill-conceived statement or crowd-pleasing sentiment to cause someone else pain.
I want to connect.
I want to build relationships. Build community. Build trust. Build understanding.
I hope you do too.
Please. Practice digital kindness today.
Our world desperately needs it.
Lauren Hug is a speaker, author, and strategist. She is the founder of HugSpeak, a digital marketing and advertising firm, and author of The Professional Woman’s Guide to Getting Promoted, The Manager’s Guide to Presentations, and the soon-to-be-released Digital Kindness: Being Good to Yourself and Others in a Social Media World. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.