Today we’re busting the myth that social media is awful thanks to Sarah Browning of Time for Kindness. Sarah is all about seeing the kindness that’s already present on social media and in life and we just love that attitude!
Let’s face it, social media doesn’t always have a reputation for kindness. But while it’s true that there is lots of nastiness out there, I believe there is also a lot of good. We just don’t always hear about it.
Or see it.
Or feel brave enough to believe in it.
I started my Time for Kindness Instagram account in January this year. Despite being a communications strategy professional for many years, I had never used Instagram before. I am a (mostly) keen user of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but I’d never really felt the need for Instagram.
So what changed?
I’ve been working with charities and other not-for-profit organisations for the best part of 20 years. I described my work as being with organisations who wanted to build a better world. And then one day in autumn 2020, feeling reflective about where I was going in life, as many of us were at that time, I asked myself a question:
‘What do I mean by a better world?’
It dawned on me that what I mean is a kinder world. A world where kindness is valued and seen as a powerful force to change all our lives for the better.
I was out for a bike ride at the time and I often find great ideas pop into my head when I’m physically occupied like that. So after that first revelation, I asked myself another question:
‘What is my role in that kinder world?’
I am a communicator. I have always loved stories, reading, writing and listening to them. I am a connector, I love linking up people and information that I think will help them.
I came to realise that I can help in building a kinder world by amplifying stories of kindness that already exist. By taking those stories that I come across and shouting about them so that other people hear them too.
And so Time for Kindness was born.
I started by setting up the @time_for_kindness Instagram account. Finally I saw a reason to use it. A social media platform with a more positive vibe than some and that seemed to be all about telling stories was just what I needed.
This has been followed by a Time for Kindness website which shares the Instagram stories and a blog series about kindness in the world. I’m stating to dabble in sharing stories through other social media channels too.
I’m still in the early stages of my journey with Time for Kindness on social media. I’m excited about the future (although the unknown aspects also feel a bit scary right now). These are some of the things I have learned so far:
Finding something I love and believe in has been central to getting the social media activity going. I want the world to hear these stories. I want to change the balance of the narrative. I don’t think you can fake that energy and enthusiasm, certainly not in a sustainable way.
Self-fulfilling prophecies are easier to get caught up in online.
That works both ways. So if you believe social media is full of horrible things, you’re likely to notice that more. And if you want to see more positivity, that’s likely to become a virtuous circle.
The way in which you handle this will be personal to you as an individual – for example, for some people it will be about a conscious turning away from the dark, for others it might be actively looking for the points of light in the dark. Whatever works for you, it’s a good idea to find a strategy of some sort.
Recognising that it doesn’t have to be perfect has been really helpful in maintaining momentum.
There is lots of advice available about using social media. Much of it is helpful. Plenty of it is not.
When I find myself in the realms of ‘should’ – you should post ever day, you should have 20 hashtags, you should do video etc – I try to stop myself and think about what feels right for me.
Again, this is about maintaining energy and authenticity. Trying to be perfect is too much pressure and stops the flow.
It’s OK to switch off.
There is a perception that with social media you have to be ‘always on’. My take on this is that it might be true if you’re a massive corporate or charity with a large workforce. But as a single-person business or SME, there is more understanding that you can’t do it all. You will make yourself ill and that’s not good for anyone.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is to set expectations, communicate them well and stick to them. It’s also OK to switch off from the negative aspects when they are getting you down.
I created Time for Kindness as a way to bring together people who believe in kindness. And people who want to believe in it, but are nervous about that belief. By telling stories of everyday kindness, I believe we will make each other smile and inspire each other to do even more.
Social media is one of the puzzle pieces I’m using to help me do that.
Sarah Browning (she/her)
Sarah is an independent communicator and kindness cheerleader with 18 years’ experience of working with organisations that want to make the world a kinder place. She works with her clients to find ways to solve problems by connecting with audiences and communicating more effectively. Visit www.browningyork.com to find out about her communications work and www.timeforkindness.co.uk to be inspired by stories of kindness.