When I was a child my Mother would frequently say to us, ‘Manners cost nothing’. She was determined to ensure, that no matter what, her children would have good manners. It worked, we did and still do. Having been bullied as a child and furthermore, during my teenage years, I altered the phrase. For my children, I extended that phrase to include kindness. Neither good manners nor kindness cost anything. Perhaps I feel this way as a result of that bullying, but as a parent, I had such a fear of my own children being bullied, or even them being bullies. Thankfully, they are wonderfully kind, good-mannered young people.
When Caroline Flack tragically took her own life in February this year, her death sparked the #BeKind campaign. Social media was awash with the hashtag and Caroline Flacks own post from the previous December was shared countless times. People worldwide vowed to be kind. And they would be, wouldn’t they? They had, after all, made a grand gesture. They clicked and shared an image claiming they would be kind. It’s so easy, isn’t it? Hit like and share. It takes less than two seconds. To mean what you share is something else entirely.
And this, in my opinion, is problematic in itself. Sharing something like #BeKind is trendy. The thing to do this week. All and sundry, regardless of who they are and what they’re really like are hitting that little button and sharing it on. There it is, a good deed is done, time to scroll on. Kindness is not a trend, grand for a couple of days, only to be dropped in favour of something else.
The next scroll, the something else, could very well be faceless threads tearing a person apart. A series of nasty comments on a photo criticising a person about their home, their appearance, even their children. The likes are hit, the share button clicked. This is not okay, it is not kindness. It is actually, utterly despicable.
We are never going to like everyone we meet. There will be people in the public eye who annoy you. Certain influencers may grate on your nerves. These are not reasons to engage in hurtful, nasty behaviour. Ditching kindness because you don’t like someone’s hair or perhaps their voice annoys you or you have no time for a campaign they are a part of is not the answer. The answer is actually a very simple one. UNFOLLOW.
If you don’t like a particular movie star, you won’t go to the cinema to see their latest film. When that pop band you find irritating release a new album, you won’t be downloading it. Why then? Why follow a person that you don’t like?? To rip them to shreds?? Trample on their confidence?? Feed their insecurities?? Totally forgotten #BeKind?
If you enjoy engaging in the persecution of people, online or otherwise, it says more about you as a person than them. A preferable choice would be to curate your feed. Therefore you would only watch and engage with the content you enjoy and with people you are interested in. This includes family, acquaintances, colleagues. There are mute buttons, hide buttons, unfollow buttons. Use the buttons! It will improve your life and it will also improve the lives of those people who aren’t your cup of tea. It may also be time to look at your own life. What is causing you to feel so bitter that you gain satisfaction from another person suffering? Even if you never comment on something disparaging, by simply clicking a link, sharing a link, drawing someone else’s attention to it, you are feeding the hurt. Just stop, don’t do this. Remember #BeKind because it is important.