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I’m a basketball fan. I have an intense love of the game. I love everything about it. I love watching, I love playing, I love analyzing, I love strategizing, I love the competition. Basketball is one of my many happy places.

I was at a basketball game last week. It was an important one to both teams playing, and the team I was rooting for won. It was glorious.

However… after the game there was a bit of drama. There’s so much speculation as to what actually happened. I’ve watched security footage, I’ve seen various video clips posted. The whole situation was very unfortunate. I still don’t know for sure what happened.

At the center of the controversy was a young man by the name of Jordan Caroline. He is a talented basketball player. He received some uncalled for taunting by my home team crowd, and I was disappointed in their choice of chant. It wasn’t ok. And I wish I could look Mr. Caroline in the eyes and apologize for my team’s fans.

But here’s the thing…

It got worse.

The conversation on social media has included jokes and taunts and little snippets poking fun at this amazing athlete.

And all the post-game conversation has turned into bullying. That’s not ok.

The whole incident was unfortunate. It really was. And the jokes that are being made would be hilarious if – and that’s a big fat IF – there weren’t an ACTUAL PERSON at the root of those jokes.

When you take a step back, though, there’s a real live human being that is taking the brunt of this. He’s the butt of the joke. He’s the one being targeted. Everyone is getting a good laugh at the expense of one guy. One guy who probably regrets his actions, but who also hasn’t even had a chance to defend himself.

Social media can be an awesome place. It’s a place where we can share and uplift and inspire and bring a little light and joy.

But also, it’s an awful place. It’s a place where we can hide behind a screen and say mean and nasty things because it will get us likes and grunts of support.

Nope. Nope nope nope. This is not ok.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I took a moment to visualize what these actions look like in real life.

Are you ready for a painful visualization? Because that’s what’s coming.

Imagine the worst, most humiliating day of your life. (I’m not saying this was Mr. Caroline’s worst day – I’m just going with this metaphor for a visualization.) This is the day that you said something you really regret, or physically did something you wish you could take back. You hurt someone else unintentionally and you feel rotten about it.

Are you there? Are you in those feelings?

Now imagine sitting in a public square. You’re standing up, but have shackled ankles and wrists. You’re unable to move, unable to run away.

Next to you is a video replaying over and over the thing that makes you most guilty. The words, the actions… No explanation for what may have brought you to that point, just the action itself. It’s on repeat. Just out of your reach. And it’s loud. You can’t turn it off, but you can see it.

And so can the crowds and crowds of people that are flocking towards you.

The people look kind enough – but then they get closer. They see the video. They make quick assumptions of why you did what you did. And then they get close to your face and they mock you. They taunt you. They throw things at you. They dump half finished drinks over your head. They spit at your feet. And then they look around at the people with them for a reaction. When they get it, they keep it up. And others join in because this is apparently the thing that is happening.

You can’t say anything. You try, but dirt gets thrown in your mouth.

You hang your head in shame, yet it continues. You want to curl up in a ball and cry, but you are restrained enough that even escape isn’t an option. This continues. The crowd dies down, but then one person says something loud enough and everyone rallies back and continues the taunts, the teasing, and the torture.

This is the internet. This is social media.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In that same scenario, what if one person stood between you and the crowd? And what if someone else was inspired by that one person? And what if enough people were inspired enough that they formed a protective barrier around you. What difference could one person make?

You have an opportunity to be that one person. You have an opportunity to stand up and not participate in the bullying that continues despite constant yelling for it to stop. You have an opportunity to be KIND.

Glennon Doyle said “There are not two of you- Internet you and Real you. There is only one of you. If you aren’t kind on the Internet, then you’re not kind.”

Your real-life business can inject goodness into the world.

If you’re a business on social media, you have just as much responsibility to inject goodness and kindness into the world. Businesses have amazing resources to reach larger amounts of people and to really make a difference. What kind of difference are you making? Why are you in business? What inspires you to make the world a better place?

Be kind.

I beg you – be kind. Don’t crack a joke at the expense of someone else

And here’s the thing – I’m guilty of this too. I’m trying to be better every day. I’m not perfect, but I’m more aware. So let’s do this together. Let’s be aware of the impact of our words and our actions. Even if we feel like kindness isn’t deserved, do it anyway. You can be kind and have strong boundaries at the same time. You don’t have to be taken advantage of or walked over to be kind.

  • Clear [communication] is kind. (Thank you Brené Brown for that gem!)  
  • Boundaries are kind.
  • Speaking up for yourself is kind.
  • Speaking up for others is kind.
  • Noticing others is kind.
  • Love is kind.

Want to know something awesome?

  • You can be kind and still be a good business person.
  • You can be kind and still be a fierce competitor.
  • You can be kind and still have strong opinions.
  • You can be kind and still debate and disagree with others.

Be kind.

Use social media as a tool for kindness and goodness. Build kindness into your digital strategy.

We always get higher by lifting others. Always.