Do you remember being a child, and getting something from your parents, only to swiftly be followed up with a “Say Thank You”.
I remember always thinking… I was going to say it! Now it doesn’t mean anything, because you’ve told me to do it.
Have you ever seen someone on the street rattling a tin for a charity, or trying to sign people up to some cause, and think, “I already do things for several other causes, but now I feel awkward saying I’m not interested because I already picked the things I help with”.
That is how I feel about this trend of starting a hashtag, or a ‘tag some friends’ post that has to be a ‘call to action’ or that we have to share to ‘raise awareness’ and usually we have to post it with some kind of video of ourselves or something where we ask everyone else to do something whether or not we actually do the thing ourselves.
There is a brilliant quote from Tolstoy that reads “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
To make change, you have to make change. Make, the verb. Making is a doing word. To make change, is not to tell everyone else to do something for someone else, it is to lead by example.
You might not get as many likes on Facebook, you might not get as many encouraging comments on social media, but if you actually live your life by example, you will most certainly have a much bigger impact than simply asking everyone else to go and do something. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”, ask yourself, if I have just learned a thing today, am I really qualified to then tell everyone else to do it? If I have just lifted weights for the first time, should I then go out and tell everyone that they should now go out and lift weights?
We see these things take off on social media based on inaccurate statistics sometimes. I understand that you would like to do some good, but if you can’t take the time to even check the facts of the cause you are talking about, how can you tell me to care about it as well? How much actual ‘care’ is involved in those instances.
There are so many things that are worth discussing, many with equal merit. People have thousands of diseases that need cures, there are so many levels of disadvantage, homelessness, addiction, people who just struggle in day to day life, people have internal mental battles with depression and anxiety. Sometimes people just have shitty days.
Starting with appreciating your own life, you can open up many opportunities to learn about the struggles of others. Once you are aware of the struggles, you can make a decision to DO something about the struggles you feel comfortable with helping.
Exactly zero percent of the conversations that I have had in my life that have made a difference have come from a post with a hashtag in it. The conversations come from people who LIVE the lives of good and caring people all the time. The amazing thing about making a difference too is not in the questions we ask, but in the way that we listen. The real change in how we look at helping should come from listening, understanding and educating.
Complexity and noise are barriers to understanding. Additional duplications of causes or outcomes create this barrier, in the same way that duplications of charities, create complexity and noise that hinder understanding.
RUOK Day is a great example, and the original educational opportunity through social media, for understanding how to approach conversations with people struggling with mental health issues. #RUOK still exists, and the organisation exists to educate people on how to have effective conversations and listen to people who might need a friendly ear.
For people who really care about improving the quality of that conversation, let’s not compete. Let’s not confuse the message. Let’s not create more unnecessary noise, rather enhance the message which already exists. Listen. Be there. Be there offline and online. Be there for people in any capacity you can.
Look past awareness as the sole outcome of what you are trying to achieve, awareness is nothing without action that supports the people in need. With that in mind, make sure that you are taking the action that you are asking others to do. A great example of that is Jamie Milne, running to raise awareness for Alzheimers Australia, off the back of raising much needed funds for their research! Awareness becomes the by-product of the action that actually makes a difference.
Educate people and allow them to make their own choices about where they would like to help, and what they are comfortable with. Some people will want to help animals, some will be passionate about race relations, others, particular diseases that have affected their families.
Understand that effecting lasting change is a long term process, that doesn’t need something to go viral so that it is in everyone’s consciousness for a brief second only to disappear once we have shared a post. Give people space and information over time to learn to care about the things you care about.
Try share more about what others are doing, rather than demand that they do the things you are doing. Focusing on the good work that other people do is a great way to encourage people to keep on doing it! Hashtags are a great way to spread information, but use them wisely. Take some care to care. Check the facts, do some investigation, make sure if you are going to ask people to do something, that you have at least made sure that you actually know why.
Put some time in. Authority is built by expertise and effort. You might ‘care’ the same as someone who has been doing something a long time, but you will not have the same authority as they do. If you see an issue, educate yourself, put some time in.
Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” – not “Make the hashtag that you want everyone to use when referring to a change that you’d like to see in the world”.
Start with you. Start with your actions. Start by Just Being Nice.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports