The death of TV presenter Caroline Flack sparked a nationwide debate about the lack of humanity on social media.
Managing Campaign’s social media channels, I am no stranger to dog-piling – the practice whereby people, hiding behind their computer screens, gang up on a person or tweet. Just take a look at Campaign’s tweet announcing that Tesco had introduced a diverse range of plasters, for example – you don’t have to scroll far to find hundreds of acrimonious responses.
Since Flack’s passing, users have been rallying against the toxic trolling culture on social media and imploring each other to think more carefully about the impact of their words online. There are now more than three million posts using the hashtag #BeKind on Instagram and Twitter.
Today, the hashtag is being used to share acts of kindness during global self-isolation measures to contain Covid-19. While I write this, in the past hour alone there have been about 250 #BeKind tweets.
Amid the stockpiling, closures and social-distancing panic, the pandemic has encouraged users around the world to turn to social media to share their collective coronavirus confusion, shifting the narrative from dog-piling to unity.
On Twitter, users are sharing their tips for working from home, while on Facebook people are offering to buy groceries for those at high risk in their area. Meanwhile, on Instagram, there’s an array of virus-inspired memes lifting morale, and on TikTok users are educating each other about the correct way to wash your hands (in the form of dance, obviously).
Brands have also been using social media to draw attention to the kind measures they are putting in place to help the public cope during this trying time. LinkedIn announced that it is offering free courses to provide tips on staying productive and using virtual meeting tools. Hair salon Rush said on Twitter that it is providing complimentary wash, blow dry and styling for all NHS staff; similarly, Pret a Manger thanked NHS workers on Instagram with an image of a vegetable heart and an offer of hot drinks "on the house".
As we continue to distance ourselves from people in the physical world, I have never felt so connected to others around the world through social media. Together in isolation.
I predict (or, rather, I hope) that a silver lining from this grey cloud will be a positive change to the social media landscape for good. And perhaps #BeKind would be the norm.
Orianna Rosa Royle is news reporter and social media editor of Campaign