It’s nice to be nice

I did something a bit out of character today. I launched a touchy-feely social media campaign, despite not really being a touchy-feely person, unless I have a few glasses of Sauvignon in me.

To give you a bit more detail, I posted a black and white selfie with a tick drawn on my hand (well, a check really because… you’ll see in a sec) saying I’d “checked in” (there you have it) with three people I hadn’t spoken to for a while, and nominated a few people to do the same.

Before doing this I got in touch with my friend and Twitter’s most fervent kindness advocate, author and podcaster Giles Paley-Phillips, to ask if he’d be interested in launching the campaign together.

Of course, he was, and of course, he’s since got loads of people involved, because he radiates some sort of digital magic that’s a magnet for positivity and just people being REALLY nice to each other.

I wasn’t sure what the response would be like, but so far we’ve had a few celebs get involved and more importantly, people already telling us they’ve picked up the phone to get in touch with someone to make sure they’re okay.

In fact, our Twitter notifications have been awash in utter loveliness since. And I’m a little taken aback because honestly, this sort of thing isn’t very “me”.

Unlike Giles, I’m not what anyone would describe as a natural kindness advocate on social media. In fact “sardonic bitch” would probably be more of an apt description.

I moan. I snipe. Sometimes I get into slanging matches. I’m a sniggerer who’s more likely to repost a meme that’s funny at someone else’s expense than raise awareness of a charitable cause. I can be a bit tongue-in-cheek and I’ve been known to post the odd self-indulgent selfie.

And yes, arguably launching this campaign is a tad on the self-indulgent side, but the thing is, it really does have a point.

Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve been bloody miserable lately. I won’t bore you by pointing out all the reasons people might be feeling the mental health toll of being nine months into a global pandemic but the fact is, a lot of us are.

I’ve been feeling it. I’ve had recent moments of complete deflation and apathy, where I’ve found myself wallowing in a large, grey puddle of “what’s the point?”

I’ve had periods of not looking after myself properly and accordingly, days and weeks have melted into a depressingly monotonous vacuum, simply because I was no longer getting any sort of pleasure from the everyday stuff.

When I get like that, I can feel quite lost and detached from myself.

And it’s only now that I’m coming out of that slump that I’ve really realised that getting a text or phone call out of the blue from someone unexpected helps to remind me that I exist. That I matter, even.

Giles is one of the people who regularly checks in on me. Sometimes I don’t reply. I know it’s rude – but it’s just that I can’t bring myself to generate the mental capacity to respond to such kindness and positivity when I’m feeling so bleak. But still, it makes a difference.

That’s why I think it’s important to reach out to someone to check if they’re alright, even if you suspect you won’t get a hearty conversation out of it.

One of the people I reached out to today hasn’t replied. I haven’t spoken to them for a while, but I do know they’re going through an incredibly tough time in lockdown. Perhaps they haven’t seen my message yet, or perhaps they just don’t have it in them to reply. But that’s okay. The main thing is they know someone’s remembered them.

It’s actually quite easy to get into those sort of depressive states when you scroll and scroll through social media, as I often do. It’s all too easy to become trapped in this echo chamber of feeling shit, but feeling like it’s okay to just carry on feeling like shit because hey, look, everyone else is feeling like shit too! Of course, it’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not exactly great to just accept that that’s the way it’s going to be and give in to it.

That’s why I decided to give this kindness and positivity thing a go. And you know what, I’ve already met some lovely souls on Twitter today. Making an effort to connect to people isn’t just nice for them, it’s nice for you. It feels nice to be nice.

But away from rhapsodising about the joys of making friends online, someone else I checked in with today was my dad, who has zero online presence and probably thinks Twitter is type of biscuit. The last time I’d spoken to him was about two months ago. I would say “can you believe that?” but if you knew my dad, you would believe that, but that’s beside the point. When I made myself think about who I should check up on, he popped into my head. Our conversation ended up being a grand total of four texts, but between two Bowers that’s actually not bad going.

It’s definitely a start, because I’m going to annoy him with more regular texts from now on. Well, he’ll pretend to be annoyed – but I suspect he actually quite likes hearing from me really.

To take part in the #CheckingIn campaign, contact three people you haven’t spoken to for a while, then nominate a few others to do the same. If you’re feeling really showy about it, you can post a selfie with a tick drawn on your hand and use the hashtag. Or don’t. The main thing is you actually ask someone how they’re doing.

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