The complaint I hear most often about social media, and Twitter in particular, is that it’s a cesspool of people screaming ignorance, inanity, incivility, or ill-will. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but so far I haven’t experienced anybody leveling vitriol at me, and if I see someone I follow doing it elsewhere, I just unfollow and/or block them.
Life’s too short to deal with angry people spewing hatred. A bad day every once in awhile is understandable, but I can’t deal with constant cortisol.
I actually get a lot of positivity from social media. The people I follow tend to be aspirational and inspirational to me. Leaders I learn from. Colleagues doing cool things at work and at play. Consultants who teach me how to be better at what I do. News sources and industry press that keep me current on the world and topics that impact my work. And the occasional account that just makes me chuckle.
I started noticing something new popping up in my feed a couple of months ago from fundraising consultant Susie Hills of Halpen Partnership. It was right about the same time that I did a mass purge of accounts I’d been following to stay aware of current events that I found were really stressing me out, and Susie’s posts were focusing on kindness. It was really what I needed to hear right then.
I noticed she was regularly tweeting recognition of people doing random acts of kindness, small and large…
…and adding commentary that resonated with me:
I thought it was really nice. But, you know, was focusing on kindness a bit sappy? Then I saw her post this:
In that quote from Allison Vesterfelt (now Fallon), I got what I think Susie is trying to do. It’s active kindness. It’s doing and recognizing simple kindnesses, but it’s more than just that. It’s standing up for integrity. Grit. Honesty. And purposefully working toward Platinum Rule-style justice.
I haven’t spoken with Susie, and we’ve never met. She doesn’t know I’m writing this article and I don’t know if she’ll ever see it. But her #teamkind initiative inspires me and is proof that putting kindness out there can resonate.
She’s not alone in the fundraising world recognizing how critical kindness is right now in our world. The Carnegie UK Trust in Scotland puts its money behind studying, quantifying, and bringing kindness into action in society. They have recently published several white papers (and a video) on the results of studies quantifying kindness and how it impacts public engagement, and on the practice of kindness from regional Kindness Innovation Networks.
It’s practical work, not kumbaya stuff.
In his article “Joining The Dots,” Carnegie UK Trust Policy and Development Officer Ben Thurman writes about the studies they funded:
But we also learnt ever more about the limitations and the barriers that inhibit social connections and relationships. Kindness is contingent on other factors – the way that we design our physical environment, the nature of our public and civic spaces, the policies and procedures that govern the behaviours of organisations. Increasingly, we have found that all of this ‘infrastructure’ gets in the way of kindness…
…There is a whole raft of tensions: between kindness and risk, relationships and professionalism, emotions and performance management. Alongside this, we have perceived a sense of fear of ‘radical kindness’, which is perhaps unsurprising in a (public sector) context that does not always support risk-taking nor provide the time and space to invest in doing things differently.
We do not have all the answers. But we do know that any response to the complexities of kindness must be based on flexibility, trust and support to empower people and professionals to behave in a way that is authentic and, above all, human. And we also know that creating the time and space for challenging conversations about the type of communities, organisations and society that we are striving towards is a vital part of the process towards change.”
Over the past few years, maybe you, like me, have become worn down by the lack of civility we see in politics. I also have concerns with how the tech community and other businesses act regarding privacy and our data, and about how our young people are going to make it personally, professionally, financially, and physically in a changing environment.
But lately I’m given hope and being inspired by Susie and others. Even though kindness is generally the way I try to approach the world, I know that being actively mindful about recognizing it will positively impact both my work and my own inner dialog.
I’m on #teamkind now, and I hope you will join me.