Spreading kindness through a small gesture on social media can have a big impact on someones day.
In the age of doomscrolling—an act that’s become so common that even Merriam-Webster took note of the term in 2020—logging on to social media can be a slippery slope. A negative comment or upsetting headline can quickly turn your mood sour, and research has even proven that social media usage can aggravate mental health problems. All this goes to show that being kind online, more than ever, is incredibly important.
Florida-based licensed clinical psychologist Zamira Castro, Ph.D says that sharing kindness online can be a “good practice at staying human under ever more distancing conditions.” Being kind—in person or online—can have a positive impact on your mood, self-image, and overall satisfaction with your relationships, she adds.
Research published earlier this year in the Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science suggests also that self-compassion can act as a buffer against the more negative mental health effects that can stem from prolonged Instagram use. When you’re kind to yourself, you’re less likely to fall into the same old doomscroll—and you’re better emotionally equipped to help foster a positive environment online.
Here are a few small actions that can make a big difference in someone’s day, or even their life.
1. Write positive reviews for places, products and companies you’ve interacted with.
It’s hard to overstate just how big of an impact a good review can have on a business. In 2021, content software company Power Reviews conducted a survey of 6,538 consumers across the United States and found 98% of shoppers consider ratings and reviews the most important element in purchasing decisions (even more so than price). It goes to show: A kind review won’t just bring a smile to a business owner’s face—it can also bring them more customers.
Linn Atiyeh, CEO of Louisiana-based recruiting and headhunting company Bemana received a “glowing piece of promotion from a client who we had worked with,” she says via email. “Despite only having had a short relationship with the client, they went out of their way to promote our services in a blog post on their website.” Over the next year, the company signed on about five more clients, just thanks to that blog post alone.
According to customer reviews website Trustpilot, a good review should be detailed. For instance, instead of just saying that a restaurant’s food is delicious, talk about what dishes really standout, its excellent service, and its ambiance—the more detailed you can get, the better.
No review is better than a negative review—but constructive feedback can help someone in the long term, if it’s shared appropriately (like via DM). Constructive feedback, Dr. Castro explains, is commentary that can “nurture and support the other in making positive changes or improvements.”
2. Donate to a good cause.
There’s a reason why you tend to feel good when you make a donation to a charity you feel strongly about. A study published in June 2021 in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that when people make even small charitable donations, they experience an uptick in happiness. So, not only does a deserving organization get your financial support—you also get a good mood-boost.
Encouraging others to donate on social media or through online shopping can also create a considerable impact. The company Givz allows retailers to apply “donation incentives” to products—a percentage of the cost goes directly to a charity (to date, it’s helped donate over $150,000). Not only does the software help businesses to incentivize online shoppers, co-founder and CEO Andrew Forman says it also creates a domino effect. “One consumer who reached out really stuck with me. Not only had she gotten to donate $10 to a charity of her choice, but the experience reminded her of where she used to consistently volunteer,” he says via email. “She ended up going back to the organization to volunteer for the first time in many years the following weekend.” It’s a win for everyone.
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe are all great ways to help out people who are raising money for business ventures, emergency expenses, and more. You can also get involved in online mutual aid efforts. Buy from organizations’ Amazon wishlists (you can browse through different charity’s needs on Amazon Smile), do an online grocery delivery for a sick neighbor, or volunteer to help students with tutoring over Zoom.
You can also connect with people around you online to learn more about the needs of your more immediate community. Elodie Bottine co-founded the app MyNabes in October 2019, with the mission of “recreating the neighborhood spirit that existed in the past and to place communities in a more collaborative, supportive and convivial ecosystem” through an online chat system. Last holiday season, the app launched a chain of solidarity, connecting with users online to buy toys for families in need.
3. Report negative posts
Negativity can spread rapidly on social media especially because when people aren’t making their comments aloud, they can feel like their words don’t have consequences (especially if they’re posting anonymously)—and that’s simply untrue. “Study after study has shown that people have deep emotional reactions to what they see and read online,” Brooke Jones, vice president of The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation says via email. “Words matter.”
Cyberbullying is especially prevalent amongst teens, but it’s an issue that people of all ages face. According to data published by Statista earlier this year, over 40% of adults in the U.S. have experienced cyberbullying in their lives, and 36% have reduced their online activity specifically because of digital harassment. Online hate and harassment can have serious consequences, causing feelings of anxiety, depressive thoughts, and insomnia in targets, research shows and highlighted in Olympic star, Simon Biles experience. By reporting negative posts, you can help protect others from bullying and hate speech. And, by spreading kindness instead, you can help foster a safe, healthy online environment where people feel loved and supported.
4. Start a chain reaction of good deeds online.
Plenty of good deeds are done in secret—but you don’t have to be shy about sharing an act of kindness you performed online. Seriously: It’s highly likely that your action could inspire someone else to do some good, too. A study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology in January 2021 found that consuming media portrayals of people helping or supporting each other makes viewers feel happier, calmer, and more generous. The #randomactsofkindness hashtag on TikTok, for instance, has over 172.7 million views and features people doing good in their communities—there’s plenty of inspiration to go around. Users share videos of themselves paying for strangers’ meals, handing out flowers, and paying people compliments. It may feel boastful to share your act of kindness online, but doing so encourages others to follow your lead—it creates a chain reaction.
“The guiding principle I try to tell everyone is this: Tune into the good happening around you,” Jones says. “It’s everywhere. When you start seeing it and feeling it more often, make sure you’re sharing it with others.”
5. Support the people you care about through engagement
Yes, social media has the power to have a negative effect on a person’s mental health. But it can also be a serious source of good, according to Mesfin Awoke Bekalu, research scientist in the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research shows that positive social media interactions can strengthen people’s social bonds with one another and can make up for diminished face-to-face time (especially crucial to note during a pandemic). It all depends on the way you use social media. So, to foster strong connections, like your friend’s posts, add positive comments, and send messages of support to friends or simply people that you appreciate or admire. If you’re still wondering how to be kind online, all you need to know is that it doesn’t take a grand gesture.
What’s important to remember is that a little bit goes a long way, even the smallest act of kindness can make a big impact and contribute to fostering a positive environment online.