There’s a sign on my son’s school door. It says, THROW KINDNESS LIKE CONFETTI!
I love this. But until today, I loved it in a kind of abstract way. Like, aw, that’s sweet, my son’s teacher is warm and fuzzy.
Today, I started to see it in a new way – as a sage piece of advice worth heeding literally.
In February 2014, Charlotte Dawson tragically suicided after being trolled relentlessly by vile cowards. She engaged with them, and she bore their insults; she took their horrible, baseless epithets, to heart. As most of us would. They were relentlessly evil.
And her life ended.
These people, I have no doubt, murdered her. Not with a gun, nor a knife, but with a weapon that is now accessible to EVERYBODY and at ANYTIME. Without exercising good judgement, it is a weapon that people can wield even accidentally. How easy it is to be sassy and unkind online, when you would never say what you’ve typed to someone’s face.
In the last twelve hours, Lily Allen has courageously faced up to a personal horror. She tweeted, in an attempt to engender deserved sympathy for refugees, about her battle with PTSD in the wake of her stillborn son’s birth, at six months’ gestation (nuchal cord – a cord around the baby’s neck, which resulted in strangulation and death).
This is a horror. A horror. As a mother of two healthy babies, I cannot imagine this pain. I have friends who have experienced it and I do not doubt, for one second, that the trauma she refers to is utterly correct.
To admit this to the internet took bravery and courage. She deserves our admiration and gratitude; and of course, our deepest sympathies at what she’s experienced.
But Lily Allen has subsequently been trolled in the most horrendous and inhumane manner – a manner that even gives trolls a bad name. People accusing her of lying, of bringing on the still birth by doing drugs, of her baby deciding to die to avoid the fate of being parented by Lily…
How can we live in a world where people choose to behave in this manner? This could be your boss. Or your neighbour. Or the man who sells you brioche on a Sunday morning. The woman making your coffee. These keyboard vigilantes, no, keyboard terrorists, are hell-bent on destruction. I don’t know why; it is so foreign to me that I truly cannot comprehend this mentality.
There is no way to stop these people. Sure, one day legislation might catch up. Ashley Judd, in 2015, revealed plans to sue trolls who had harassed her. Then there’s Curt Schilling, a former American baseballer, who proudly tweeted news of his teen daughter’s acceptance into college. He was inundated with offensive tweets, many foreshadowing rape and sodomy in his daughter’s future. At least nine of the trolls had real-world consequences, including losing their jobs or places on prestigious college sports’ teams. While this is a satisfying ‘ah ha!’ moment, it’s still not a well-rounded solution.
So do you feel as desperately despairing as I do? When you read these stories, do you wonder what you can do? Here’s my answer, and yeah, I’m totally plagiarising from my son’s first grade teacher.
THROW KINDNESS LIKE CONFETTI.
Do not scroll past! If you see a photo of a high school friend who’s just had a new hair cut? Tell them how great it looks. Even if you hate it, find a way to be kind.
Fill the voice of the internet’s dark matter with beautiful messages of support. It takes just a moment to send a little tweet, message or ‘thumbs up’ of support, admiration, adoration, kindness and respect, but you have no idea what kind of butterfly effect you are starting (or preventing). This isn’t just an online thing. Do it in real life too! Stop strangers to tell them you like their hair, smile at people you don’t know. Take an extra second to ask how a waitress is – and mean it. Pay attention to their answer.
THROW KINDNESS LIKE CONFETTI. Always. Always, always, always. You can go tweet Lily a message of support here.