We invited student Bella King to comment on the role of social media during lockdown, as we reflect on last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s ‘kindness’ theme.

So many assume that social media is a negative space, characterised by insult and abuse. Delve deeper, however, and you’ll find that it can offer us a lot, especially now, when staying connected is so important.

For countless individuals the coronavirus pandemic has led to feelings of loneliness and seclusion. On Kooth, loneliness as a presenting issue among children and young people continues to rise. In the first half of this month alone, loneliness had increased by 46%, compared to the same period last year.

Unable to access their usual support – professional or social – many people feel abandoned. For many of us, though, social media is key to normalising feelings, gaining perspective, and keeping a sense of support and reassurance.

Right now, social media feels like something to be embraced.

Just a simple search around the hashtag kindness on Instagram opens up a world of kindness, in messages, images and comment. Images encompass kindness mantras and messages of support, as well as examples of recent acts of kindness, random or otherwise. There are messages which empower and implore us to not only be kind to others, but to ourselves.

The simple sharing of these messages is going a long way to uniting the whole social media community. At a time when we are so separate, perhaps we have never been – digitally – closer. Being together on social media in this one huge shared experience, we are each other’s support. And we can be that support in so many different ways.

Across London, ‘Community is Kindness’ posters have been shared. Lisa Saldivar, a Mexican artist, has produced a piece of work depicting the side of an apartment building with the accompanying words ‘kindness not cancelled’. It is projected on rotation in a New York City hospital to support mental health and public safety.

Chelsea FC has created a ‘Kindness Calendar’ which aims to celebrate the acts of kindness that are vital in maintaining good mental health. In this calendar, the club’s players, staff and supporters share daily messages about the importance of mental health and kindness through its social media. It is a bid to create the kind of society we want to come out of lockdown to.

Recently we celebrated international nurses day, a day that celebrates health care workers on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year felt poignant. Many have been showing our frontline workers support and kindness through deliveries of gift boxes and food packages. The support for them on social media is abundant; a real illustration of how we can use social media to spread kindness.

Indeed, a recent survey by the Office of National Statistics, looking at the social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, found that 67% of us believe that we will be more kind to each other after the pandemic.

To end on a note of kindness, here are five simple ways to show kindness on social media

  1. Consider commenting on a post you like, whether you know the author or not
  2. Don’t participant in or support negativity through a like or reply
  3. Try to express genuine empathy to those who are suffering
  4. Say thank you when people comment on your posts
  5. Post things that will make other people smile

Bella King, Student