Express & Star

Andy Richardson: A lovely discovery made on my journey to Be More Kind

The death of Caroline Flack caused an outpouring of emotion.

Since starting my Be More Kind journey, the strangest thing has happened...

Hounded by a merciless press who either failed to see the damage it was doing, or, more likely, was indifferent to the duress under which it placed her, the Love Island host simply couldn’t cope. Their behaviour, coupled with the actions of police, created a human tragedy.

The result was a short-lived mantra; that we should Be More Kind.

The idea was that we ought to be more responsible for our actions, reflect on the consequences before we posted vituperative Twitter posts, and avoid the sort of unseemly Wild West spats that are commonplace online.

So how’s that going?

A quick scroll through a daily timeline suggests the lessons have not been learned.

We can, however, take individual action and in my case, I’ve started to subscribe to that Be More Kind philosophy in the simplest of ways.

Avoiding the trash talk – neither posting it nor reading it – I favour sending a little kindness to those who need it most.

So when somebody posts that they’re feeling down and could do with a little support, I send a simple heart or another encouraging emoji.

If somebody is celebrating good news or a big achievement, I send a trophy, a round of applause or another signifier to them.

And if there’s something funny or brilliant – a busking brass orchestra in a New York subway, an emu that pecks mobile phones while its owner patiently asks it not to, a dancing goat that causes laughter – I make sure to Retweet so others can cleanse their timeline and enjoy.

Once a day, I send a moment’s kindness to someone who might benefit; a kid in hospital, a mom struggling to get through the day, a person with mental health issues or a high-achieving 82-year-old who proves you’re only as old as you feel.

Since starting my Be More Kind journey, however insignificant it may seem, the strangest thing has happened.

A timeline that used to be full of angry political discourse, name-calling, pointless attacks and stuff that generally makes people wonder why the world is such a harsh place has been cleaned up.

No longer is it full of preening alpha awfulness. Instead, I’m sent pictures of seals making friends with Labradors, people fighting hard to recover from illness or pictures of cats dressed in T-shirts sitting down to blow out candles on cakes. No, seriously.

And they do.

The algorithms that run Twitter have noticed my likes and dislikes and the idea of Being More Kind has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The trash talk is gone, the unpleasantness has been dispensed with and the arguments between Nadine Dorries and everyone have been replaced by short videos of men giving water to thirsty squirrels so that they can get a drink before scampering up a tree. And, frankly, I know which I prefer.

From septuagenarians who write great and funny poems to dogs who adopt abandoned ducklings and raise them with their pups, from parents who acclaim the talents of disabled kids to dogs who sit in plantpots or NHS doctors who started their careers when they were forced to flee terrorism, my Twitter feed has become a place of reciprocal kindness, fun and good news.

So to those who bemoan the hostility of social media and wonder why it’s not a kinder, more pleasant place, there’s an easy answer – it can be.

And that can be driven by affirmative action, by noticing the good stuff and disengaging with the pointless hot air, by blocking the unpleasantness and focusing on the smiling goths of Whitby, by offering kindness and support rather than getting into vainglorious disputes that spiral out of control in a way that they wouldn’t if people were face-to-face, rather than emboldened by the anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard.

Such actions don’t solve the cost of living crisis, provide a solution to the climate crisis or help to pay the fuel bills of the needy, which is all of us.

It does, however, mean my timeline is no longer infected by self-serving bile from those who should know better. And for that, I’m truly grateful.

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