October 22, 2021

Online, ‘if you can be anything, be kind’

Imagine if you shared the news of a loved one’s death and I jumped on your Facebook post and commented, “Tough luck” or gave you a list of reasons why they died. No condolence or consideration. I mean, it’s not the “real world” anyway. Right?

Each morning I wake up and scroll the social media feeds. The comment sections are sometimes glorious and bring great joy to my life (Hello Zillow Gone Wild!). Other comment feeds make me wonder if people walk around and are that rude, condescending and insensitive in person (That’s your feed KCCI!). It’s not everyone, but enough for me to turn to my son and remind him, “If you can be anything, be kind.”

I dislike the term “the real world,” because where is this alternate place everyone is implying the existence of? If it’s online, I hate to break it to you, but the online world IS real and shows a person’s true demeanor.

These days, people build REAL businesses and make REAL money without ever interacting in person or leaving their front door. People have the power to impact the emotional well-being of others. If you’ve ever used social media, you know what I’m talking about. God forbid you have to manage guiding your child through the masses of bullies on Facebook and Snapchat or talk them down from the proverbial cliff as they fight with kids (and adults) on the other side of the world as they play a campaign game on Xbox. It takes one nasty person to steal a person’s joy and confidence. Imagine being connected to millions of them?

I like to imagine a world where we just keep our negative thoughts and opinions to ourselves. Like my parents would say, “Is it helpful? Is it kind? If not, don’t say it.”

This morning, as I scrolled Facebook, a comment on KCCI’s story about 17 employees from a Florida school district dying from COVID-19, a woman’s angry comment caught my eye. I must spend too much time online because it just made me snap and I wrote, “This comment is like walking in to someone’s house and telling them to kiss off. You can gracefully unfollow. No one made you be here.”

I get it. I get fired up ALL THE TIME. I fire back. And when I get caught up in an argument that no one is going to win, it makes me feel all negative, which affects my whole day. Days, weeks and months of this can, and will, affect one’s mental health and quality of life. My job requires me to constantly be exposed to the vitriol that has become the norm of our online, person-to-person, interactions. And you know what? It’s contagious.

But, what if we made a conscience effort to spread kindness instead? I’ve commented on photos telling others their kids are adorable or they are a good parent. I tell them they look nice, if they do. If you look for or focus on the good, you will find it. And when you find it, comment on it and send it back. You’ll make someone’s day.

Instead of reading an article about a COVID death (like I did this morning) and politicizing it (which I did not do), why not just say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” “I’m sorry your heart hurts.” “I’ll pray for you.” The negative comments sway no one’s opinion. The hate you give only finds its way back. and the negative cycle repeats. Imagine if you made an extra effort to spread kindness? What an incredible world that would be.

I have found safe places on social media that bring me joy. On Instagram I follow a lot of crafters and artists. We inspire and teach each other and praise one another’s work. You’d have to be a real jerk to turn up your nose at something spent hours on and write about how it could have been done differently. It still blows my mind that is anyone’s response to someone’s loss.

If you don’t like what you see on social media,just scroll past. When someone’s heart is hurting because they lost someone to COVID – even if that person was in the .004 percent of the people in their school district that died – just think about your comment before you write it. Life and loss is hard enough. Be the reason someone smiles. You might be the brightest part of their day or the lifeline that pulls them through to the next.

Sarah Scull


Sarah Scull is a San Diego transplant living in Creston, Iowa. Sarah joined the Creston News Advertiser editorial staff as a reporter in in 2012 and was promoted to managing editor in November 2018. After two years in that role, she has since become associate editor to spend her time doing what she loves – writing and photography.