For some time now I have been becoming increasingly upset by the online abuse and trolling that appears to have become acceptable in our society. This level of nastiness that’s underpinned by the internet enabling a ‘because I can’ mentality, has saddened me and I’ve found it difficult to understand how it is able to go unchecked and just how normalised this negative behaviour has become.
The tragic case of Caroline Flack this last weekend has finally highlighted that it’s gone too far.
The immediate flood of calls on social media to ‘Be Kind’, reflecting Caroline’s last Instagram post, and a Be Kind tee shirt raising £300,000 for Samaritans in a few days, mean it’s evident a lot of people agree it’s time to change how we behave towards each other in our increasingly online world.
It has also made me think about how we treat each other within our sector – the charity sector, which has been subject to similar harsh criticism and false news reporting, but also the regular calling out of organisations and individuals for various perceived failings, sometimes without any proven case or a right to reply. While it’s not exactly rife, it does happen and more frequently as our community grows online across a multitude of platforms and groups.
This type of activity can be hugely damaging to an organisation’s brand and reputation as well as to our people: affecting team spirit and motivation, an individual’s confidence, mental health or even their career. Ridiculing ideas, opinions, campaigns and activities can demoralise and simply stifle innovation. My fear is that we are at risk of cannibalising our own sector just when we should be shouting about the great things that are being achieved and helping to build the trust and reputation of our sector.
We need to Be Kind. Yes, we need to behave appropriately in every way, and yes, of course, we should be held to the highest standards; I am the biggest proponent of that. Yet, I also feel we need to be more supportive and generally kinder to each other. I’m a relative newbie to this sector having worked at the heart of it for just six years when many of my colleagues and clients have spent their entire careers dedicated to this space, but I love it. And my experience is that it has the most amazing people working within it, people who are passionate, committed and all wanting to make the world a better place with their own skills and focus.
None of us are perfect, so surely, it’s better if we support each other in a kind way, driven by positivity and encouragement, in order to drive up standards, quality and behaviours, rather than looking for things to publicly criticise and berating individuals.
I can only hope that this movement to Be Kind isn’t fleeting and that maybe as a society, and yes, as a sector, we can start to move away from the negative to a more positive way of supporting each other. I’ll get down from my soap box now and start adding to my Be Kind to do list.
Helen Mackenzie is the Founder and CEO of Purity Fundraising and a Trustee of Kicking Off.
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