Aristotle says that information goes viral if it simultaneously evokes ethos (ethics), pathos (logic), and logos (emotion). Stories of kindness definitely fit that bill, and that’s why we’ve all heard about the diner who left a $1,000 tip, the homeless man that returned a diamond ring, and the enormous support San Francisco gave Batboy.
There are all sorts of platforms and suggestions promoting various ways of committing a ‘real world’ act of kindness, but how do we commit an online act of kindness? As our real life and online worlds slowly intersect and collide, it’s important that we’re able to fill our online communities with the same kindness that we fill our daily lives with. But how do we get started?
We have some shining examples: Michelle Sollicito started the Facebook group “SnowedOutAtlanta” to help more than 55,000 people track the safety of their loves ones; The anonymous woman who bought pizza for a hungry family on Reddit; Ann Curry created #26Acts to unite people performing random acts of kindness as a tribute to the Sandy Hook victims. Individuals aren’t the people committing acts of kindness online: ToysForTots allows people to make online requests for toy for disadvantaged children, and KIVA provides microloans to people around the world with money raised through online networks.
Below are some more suggestions for bringing kindness online:
-Be a connector, if you know of something that will help someone else, send an email and let them know about it. Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting a Facebook connection with a LinkedIn connection or sharing information from an online article with someone interested in the topic.
-Promote a cause with your networks. Passionate about urban revival or education? Take a stand and use your social networks to promote people working to make a positive.
-Send fan mail. If you’re consistently impressed by someone’s work digital portfolio or online writing, go ahead and let them know. So often we think of people behind the screen as distant or foreign, but they’re really just ordinary people working hard to produce a good product.
-Donate online. This one is so easy that it might seem like a copout, but if you’re pressed for time and carrying extra cash, why not support a cause? There are all sorts of nonprofits, both local and international, that accept online donations and would be grateful for your support.
-Share your skills and expertise with the online community. Is there something you’re particularly knowledgeable about that might help someone else? I can’t tell you how valuable I found online tutorials and DIY blogs and How-To articles. Maybe not your typical ‘act of kindness,’ but saves me from buying books and calling experts and wondering how in the world I accomplish this that and the other.
-Volunteer online. If you can’t find a volunteer position that matches your talents and interests in you community, there are lots of ways to get involved online. The University of Nevada, for instance, has an online volunteer forum that connects individuals with volunteer organizations all over the world.
-Offer free stuff on Craigslist. Have a microwave you no longer need? What about a really good book that’s just sitting on your shelf? Post useful things you no longer need on the ‘free’ section of Craigslist to help people searching for exactly what you’re no longer using.
-Review on Yelp and TripAdivsor and other crowd-source review sites. Again, perhaps not a traditional act of kindness, but if you’ve received great service – tell other people about it. On the other hand, if something could be improved, let others know so that they can be prepared.
-Every day kindness. This almost goes without saying, but when we’re interacting in online communities we would be well served to remember that we aren’t interacting with screens, but with the people behind them. Be polite and honest and friendly to the icons and usernames you encounter.