How to be kind to people online

Bernadette Russell

Little acts of kindness can go a long way, in in the physical and digital world. Today, we share author and blogger Bernadette Russell’s tips for how to be kind to people online.

1. Practise good ‘netiquette’
Don’t type in capital letters, as it’s a bit LIKE BEING SHOUTED AT (see?). Be as nice as you would when interacting with someone face to face. Before you type, ask yourself: ‘Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?’ (P.S. The answers should all be yes).

2. Send short, polite emails
Many of us are overwhelmed by email spam, offers, invites and requests to send perfect strangers our bank details for a variety of dubious reasons. Keep it brief if you can. Don’t get cross if you don’t get immediate replies – there could be a very good reason for it.

3. Post good reviews
If you’ve bought something, visited a restaurant or been on holiday and loved it: share that experience and make it personal. If you haven’t had a positive experience, where possible make direct contact with the organisation and let them know. They may not be aware of their shortcomings and it’s probably useful for them to receive constructive criticism. Be gentle. Same goes for books, plays, exhibitions, films, etc. – leave the artists feedback if you’ve enjoyed their work.

4. Share good news
Share positive news stories every time you see or hear about them. Look for articles that highlight solutions rather than simply present problems. You might be sharing just the thing someone needed to cheer them up.

5. Think the best of people
Resist responding online with anger or criticism – sometimes the nicest people can come across as unreasonable. If you need to, move the discussion into the real world. Everybody has bad days.

6. Post funny stuff
Post funny videos. Be silly. Share jokes. Making someone laugh on- or offline is one of the best ways to be kind.

7. Practise positivity
Share other people’s good news and help them celebrate. If you like a post, ‘like’ it! If you can think of something that will help – say it! Say congratulations, well done, Happy New Year, etc.

8. Fundraising
Support people who are fundraising by helping them spread the word. Start a campaign online yourself. A wonderful example recently ensured that a lady living in sheltered housing received some birthday cards – lots of people shared the post and she received hundreds from well-wishers. Use the internet as a global village noticeboard for good causes.

9. Share useful and positive information
Share your top tips: recipes, new places you’ve discovered, great bars, books, films, TV series, new shops and markets. Use social media to provide a platform for people to share news, ask for help and announce parties – a Facebook group, Twitter account, blog or website.

10. Follow online groups and communities who promote kindness
There are plenty more popping up every day. Have fun researching them. There are lots of people who feel disconnected because they don’t have access to, or feel confident in, using the internet. A great act of kindness is helping someone use this incredible resource by sharing your skill and knowledge. Lots of local libraries are keen to have volunteers who can help people skill up.

Prompted by the seeming hopelessness of the world around her, Bernadette Russell undertook a pledge to be kind to a stranger every day for a year. The experience left her wanting to inspire others. The Little Book of Kindness is packed with fun ideas, practical tips and interactive exercises that encourage you to ‘be kind’ in every area of life – online, to strangers, to the environment, in your community, to yourself – and change the world, one act of kindness at a time.

The Little Book of Kindness by Bernadette Russell is published by Hachette Australia, RRP $16.99

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