As a digital native, my first exposure to social media started in high school.

It was all fun and games at the beginning. Even today, I see social networks as an excellent tool for staying in touch with friends and family who I’d otherwise have trouble staying connected to.

But when it comes to connecting with strangers online, social networks tend to inspire more negative than positive energy. This is perhaps most true when it comes to the comment sections of articles shared on Facebook.

The Anxiety of Sharing

It’s interesting to see just how differently people can think about the same subject. But entertainment aside, it can be disheartening to see how quickly people get nasty with an online stranger who disagrees with them.

Regardless of how confident you are in yourself and your beliefs, it can be downright soul-crushing to be the subject of an attack that involves a group of people who think differently than you.

With the current political climate in the United States, biting remarks shared between members of groups with different beliefs have only worsened.

It’s gotten to the point that in most situations, no matter how strong my beliefs about a subject may be (and how badly I want to spout off), I refuse to engage in a public discussion with online strangers.

I get anxious thinking about how my words might be misconstrued and the fact that logic doesn’t seem to be enough to convince someone on the other side to see my point.

All that said, I still find myself getting lost in the act of reading contentious comment sections, engaging in an endless scroll, and wasting time that could be better spent doing literally anything else.

Needless to say, it’s become difficult to truly enjoy getting lost on social media as of late.

All of this has got me thinking:

Fighting with one another, whether online or IRL, isn’t getting us anywhere.

In a world plagued by almost daily mass shootings and bad role models in positions of power, we can’t just sit back and let things continue to happen as they are.

We need to do something to change the status quo.

We Need to Proactively Practice Kindness.

You already know that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Similarly, being kind to another human being doesn’t have to cost any money or require much effort.

With all this in mind, I was recently inspired by this headline:

Here’s the TL:DR (too long, didn’t read);

  • Oswalt tweeted an anti-Trump sentiment (as he’s known to do).
  • A Trump supporter replied with a personal dig.
  • Oswalt checked out this man’s Twitter profile and noticed that he had major health issues, donated $2,000 to his GoFundMe, and encouraged his followers to likewise do so.
  • The man apologized to Oswalt for his initial response, humbled by the outpouring of positive support.

This was my response to the article that I shared with my Facebook friends:

“New 2019 goal: achieve Patton Oswalt-level kindness when dealing with people I don’t agree with.”

27 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness

Since reading that article, here are some ideas I want to put into action to be more kind to everyone around me (whether they agree with me or not!):

  1. Pay for the person behind you in line at the store – especially if they appear flustered by what’s going on in their day.
  2. Smile when you make eye contact with someone (anyone).
  3. Resist the urge to give a catty reply in a heated situation. If someone else tries to engage you in an argument, sometimes silence can be the most impactful response.
  4. Show a random act of appreciation for someone you care about.
  5. Hold the door open for someone who has their arms full.
  6. If someone makes a mistake and seems genuinely apologetic, give them a break for simply being human. Nobody’s perfect and everyone has bad days.
  7. Voluntarily give up control of the remote or radio to the people you spend time with.
  8. Clean up after yourself and others sharing your space without being asked.
  9. Send someone a card via snail mail just to let them know you were thinking about them.
  10. Volunteer for a cause you care about.
  11. Let someone in a hurry cut you in line at the store.
  12. If you see a mom struggling (like while she’s in transit from place to place), help make her life easier.
  13. Give up your seat on a bus if someone needs it more than you.
  14. Listen before speaking.

And, because I’m a small business owner (as are many SEJ readers), here are some specific ideas that you can make your own to spread kindness to other small business owners:

  1. Support a friend’s business when you can, over a big box store (or refer business their way if you know someone who’s looking for what they offer).
  2. Support a client’s business when you can, to thank them for supporting yours.
  3. Offer to make an introduction between two parties who could mutually benefit from being connected.
  4. Be generous with retweets, likes, and other forms of social media engagement — especially with a fan who hasn’t found as much success as you just yet.
  5. Send a (snail mail) thank you card when someone goes out of their way for you (for example, after being a podcast guest, offering you advice, or including you in an expert roundup).
  6. Offer to go on coffee chats with people who want to do something you’re good at.
  7. Mentor someone long-term.
  8. Create free content that genuinely helps people, based on your own road to success.
  9. Leave a thoughtful comment on someone else’s blog content to show appreciation for the work that went into creating an article.
  10. Volunteer to help with an industry conference without expecting anything in return. For example, I help organize WordCamp Denver because I’m passionate about the open-source WordPress community. The event is $20/day — subsidized by sponsors, not existing to make money.
  11. Fill out a customer comment cart if you interacted with a businesses employee who made you smile.
  12. Offer to write LinkedIn recommendations for people you appreciate.
  13. Offer to fix a problem you can handle with ease but someone else is desperately struggling at.

How Do You Spread Kindness?

I’m just one person with one set of ideas for how to spread around more kindness.

So here’s what I really want to know:

What would you add to this list of ideas to spread kindness?

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