It’s not a matter of if it happened, not a question of whether or not something occurred, we’re long past that if you ask me, it’s a question of when. Was it gradual, was it all at once? Was there an origin point, a single human that began the trend, or did this leak into us all as a group? I wonder of big questions often, a fact you are all well versed in at this point, I ask the things that are often uncomfortable, often mirrors to us as a people, a species sharing this spinning place. This is one that’s been round and round this mind of mine over the years I’ve lived, over the miles I’ve wandered, over the faces of all those I’ve met. How did it come to this? When did kindness become such a rare commodity, when did it become a marketable trait, even when insincere, even when manufactured for clicks and views, likes and follows? Is a good deed good if done only for the sharing of it, for the accolades that come next?
You’ve seen the trends, you’ve seen the “Explore” worthy videos that circulate and go viral: Someone stops, a video camera in hand or over their shoulder, gives money or food or some sort of assistance to a homeless person, video zooms in with slow uplifting music on the homeless person being given said help, video zooms back in on the good Samaritan, cue voiceover of some wisdom soaked lesson they’ve learned by this act of charity, peace sign thrown, post uploaded…then come the likes, the shares, the comments. I’m of two minds here, every time I stumble on yet another version of this trend, and I’m conflicted, but while conflicted, most certainly leaning one direction. First, I am happy to see someone in an unfortunate situation being on the receiving end of a charitable act, happy to see relief and assistance being given, I will always feel this way. BUT, and yes, there is a very substantial but, I’m also troubled and upset.
It’s the filming. It’s the grandstanding, it’s the uploading, it’s the self-righteous lecturing from those being filmed, those in the ‘starring role’ of this charity, that undoes me. It’s the idea that the aforementioned unfortunate circumstance of another human being serves as a platform for manufactured kindness, that the giving is in fact the getting, that the charity is not charity at all, but promotion, but advertisement and clever marketing for brand building and metrics. Kindness as commodity, not as genuine reflection of some positive trend in human evolution. Kindness, as a trademark, as a brand strategy, as a TikTok dance without music. I don’t mean to be negative, I don’t mean to nitpick, but I find this entire social media fad vomitous at best, repugnant and deplorable. True kindness, true charity comes when the cameras are off, when the benefit of doing so extends not a millimeter beyond the act itself. True kindness needs no spotlight, needs no response, at all. Where did this go? When did this change?
I have seen the shifting sands of social media in the years that we’ve endured, I have seen the changes taking place, and those on the horizon, and I do believe things will change in a million ways, which is precisely why I started this here Signal Fire. My hope, is that as social media is dominated by brands and companies, businesses and paid promotions, we’ll all move en masse away from it, to real connections with real people, real artists that put out real art directly to our waiting eyes. My hope is that paid promotion will die out, that virtue signalling will rise off the blue light between us and our demonic devices and evaporate as swift as it settled. My hope is that we’ll become better versions of ourselves not for the benefit that accompanies it, but for the inherent goodness that’s needed so desperately these days. Thing is, I think we can practice this, I think we can get better at getting kinder, I think we can systematically and purposefully avoid all the bullshit that reinforces the narratives we’ve been force-fed up to this point. I think WE can become the planted seeds that lead to such stunning change. I think so, I believe so, and hope is holding on to that which we cannot see. Hope is walking forward into the dark of it all, believing all the while in the light.
Let’s begin, together, now.
How it came to this,
kindness as commodity,
I will never know.
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I believe in the inherent basic goodness of all people and in our potential for unconditional giving and loving kindness. And, I long for authentic connection: no games, no hidden agendas. At 64, I am acutely aware of my time on this planet and I reflect on the contribution I want to make. In the last few months I started posting poetry on IG: a new creative exercise for me and an experiment in using my voice. I am aware of the “follow for follow” game and I wonder at the postings highlighting generous acts and I hope the recipients are experiencing a genuine benefit. It’s easy to see ego at play; I get caught in it too. We all want to be seen and validated. We also want connection. I too hope we move towards being a kinder race. And hope and intention is not enough. I don’t know what the answer is. Platforms like this one have the potential for creating needed authentic dialogue. Thank you Tyler. And in the end I am responsible for checking my ego at the door, ensuring I am contributing in ways that foster kindness and being the way I wish the world to be. 🙏
YES! You have hit on it exactly. A friend sent me one such video this week, quite long and taking place in several locations. It was a heart-warming “story” of a jogger who doubles-back to help a man in a wheelchair cross the road, then runs him to a pharmacy to purchase his medication when she finds out he is unemployed and we, the voyeurs, watch him break down crying at the end. At which point I callously wondered, who is filming all this? Who was spontaneously following this jogger throughout all this? Is this just all staged… but for what reason? Maybe this really occurred, but I love your phrase, “ True kindness needs no spotlight”.