“Life is full of ups and downs, you know that. But please take a deep breath, I can’t understand what you’re saying right now”- my mom.
And she’s right, I do know that, and so do you (the ups and downs, anyway)- it’s something we’ve all been told at some point or another. Over the past couple weeks, it seems the world (or the world according to me) is collectively experiencing the down. Some people are saying it’s the moon, but I’m not entirely convinced. It feels like every day, we wake up to more stories about data breaches, violence and terrorism, death, illness, and ongoing issues (drought out west, Ebola in Africa) that I’ve forgotten about because of the newer threats we’re presented with.
But, you know what? There’s always going to be a disaster or craziness. As I became increasingly overwhelmed (and called my mom, because she always doles out the facts of life when I need them), the notion of “you see what you look for” popped into my head. Basically, if you’re looking for something bad, you’ll find it. So, I thought it’d be refreshing to actively look for ways that people use social media and the internet to demonstrate kindness in all shapes and sizes.
Using Internet fame for a cause. Singers and actors are often praised for their charitable actions, but there are quite a few internet famous people who contribute to causes. You may have heard of certain memes using their notoriety for a cause. For example, all proceeds that Lil Bub (the cat) generates go toward animal shelters. The girl behind “Overly Attached Girlfriend” created a fundraiser that donates to a different, predetermined charity every month. There’s also people who are famous in certain circles, like the gaming world. YouTube famous World of Warcraft player Athene created a charity called “Gaming for Good” after realizing tens of thousands of people regularly view his videos.
Kid President is another example of internet fame for a cause. He spreads his positive messages through short videos and social media in the hopes that it encourages kids and adults to work together to make the world a better place. His pep-talk video is one of my favorites:
These are all people (or cats) who have decided not to rest on their laurels of internet fame, but decided to use it to make an impact besides general hilarity.
Sharing the tough stuff. We’re all on a journey, right? While most people (myself included) share only their highlight reel on social media, some people share their difficulties as a way to raise awareness and/or help others who are also going through difficult times(like the “It Gets Better” campaign). These stories, wherever they are shared, are demonstrations of courage that encourage others to start a conversation.
Yesterday I saw this article about a girl on who has been on a difficult road to recovery since 2012, when she received up paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of complications along the way, she started a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and documented her recovery process-the good, the bad, and the ugly, on Imgur (a site I admittedly know nothing about). You can check out the original post here. I’ve also read a lot from those recovering from addiction, abuse, and eating disorders (here is one I read this morning). Even when these stories are submitted anonymously, they comfort people who, like me, tend to internalize their struggles.
A website built around sharing stories of everyday people, Humans of New York , shares stories of those who live in the city. Just the people you walk by on the street. The mini-profiles remind us that there’s always more than meets the eye.
Reading these stories reminds me that a) everyone is experiencing their own adversity, and b) it’s pretty amazing that we can identify with people we’ve never met before.
Losing and Finding. This is probably the most common type of post I’ve seen, and a lot of times, it can be the most heart-wrenching. Any time a local pup gets lost, I’m amazed at how responsive people are on social media. People band together in interesting ways during moments of loss, including loss of tangible things. I guess the amazing part is that things get shared by strangers who have no connection to the people who have lost something- they’re just passing a message along and hoping for the best. No investments or ulterior motives, just people trying to help each other out.
This man found a wedding ring while scuba diving and shared it on Facebook, and after diligently wading through false claims, was able to return the ring to its rightful owner. Little did he know, the couple had been enduring an incredibly difficult time with the deaths of loved ones (on both sides), so the return of the ring served as a reminder “‘there are a lot of good people still out there.'”
Inviting Participation. People have created Facebook groups and websites dedicated to recognizing acts of kindness and general connections with humanity. It’s basically a way to pay it forward. I’m part of an “Awesome Acts of Kindness” Facebook Group, and basically people share the acts of kindness that they’ve either witnessed or experienced and want to share with others. There’s also “Giving Tuesday” and other funding related efforts. Inviting others to participate can mean sharing a photo, using a hashtag, making an online donation, or asking for physical volunteering help.
As a final thought on “The Internet of Good,” I couldn’t ignore Marcel the Shell, who always looks on the bright side (and is the best use of YouTube I’ve ever come across).