Kindness. That’s a word we don’t hear much these days. Maybe it feels old-fashioned in our social-media-focused culture. Darwin, who studied human evolution believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual.
Current research supports Darwin’s studies. Science shows that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being. Kindness is free after all.
There are several ways of being kind – one way is to open your eyes, plug in, and be active when you see people in need and give your kindness in the form of an action. Don’t confuse this with being “nice” as niceness aims to please. But not necessarily to give.
True communities are created when people are kind to those in need. Helping an elderly person in your local hood with yard work, sharing homemade food, donating old clothing and things you don’t need, these are all ideas on how to practice kindness, and not just say nice or think nice things.
Kindness is also a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else’s successes. Psychologist John Gottman’s work shows that one’s response to someone’s successes may indicate how you respond when times are difficult. For example, do you minimize the other person’s success, or even bring up all the problems with success?
Being Openly Happy For The Other Person
Kindness is also about being openly happy for the other person
So, are we all like Darwin claims – “inherently good, deep-down inside” – or do we just perform acts of kindness to feel good about ourselves (selfish)? Or, perhaps there is another explanation as to why we are sometimes kind?
There is a theory of altruistic punishment, and it states that some people have an instinct that makes them want to punish unkind or selfish people by calling them out or confronting them directly. Such punishment is “altruistic” because it provides a public good, although there is a cost to the punisher – their time, effort and risk of potential exclusion from the community. The risk of suffering altruistic punishment, therefore, functions as a social pressure to be kind – even when nobody is witness to it.
The risk and possibility of exclusion is greater in countries with high density where everybody “knows one another,” but how does this work in countries more sparsely populated?
The kindness we’re talking about here is not about bringing back the days when we could go to our neighbors and borrow a cup of sugar. It’s about being kind to the community in which we live (the physical street where one resides or an entire neighborhood).
Spotfund Samaritan App
And this is where technology such as social good and location-based apps can encourage one to do good. Social good apps, e.g. the Spotfund Samaritan app allows you to donate money to people in need by using notifications and beacons. The app reveals the stories of those we pass every day who if it wasn’t for the app we would never know were in need.
Location-based apps like Geme.io also encourage you to do good in your immediate vicinity whether you are an individual, organization or business. One can create a Social Geme and offer free giveaways, help, or simply report a problem in the area for the good of the community. Kindness has so many benefits and at a time when rates of depression and anxiety seem to be at all-time highs, kindness could be a very simple but powerful antidote.
Kindness is difficult to quantify – we have no way of knowing whether people are becoming kinder unless we see it. Location-based apps will over time be able to mine data for kindness and hopefully, kindness will become the new “cool” to benefit us all.
About the author: Magdalena Pawlowicz, co-founder of Geme.io, a free community map and information sharing app that allows users to explore, create and connect with the city in innovative ways via smart phones. She is a successful serial entrepreneur in the technology field with a vision to change city life via the empowerment of the very individuals who live and visit cities to share their data freely. Join the movement to make our cities more livable and send us an email to find out more: [email protected]
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