Kindness on social media

Sophia Cheng / 6 min read / Newbie Activist Life
18 January 2021
A light anecdote during heavy times

The honeymoon period is certainly over for social media. Gone are the naive days of Friends Reunited: now they are Titans capable of swaying elections and inciting violence. But as with many things, it’s not all bad. And sometimes, just sometimes, social media is still a beautiful thing.

Here’s one such story that took place just before Christmas last year. A warm fuzzy antidote to the winter bleakness.

Through my Giving What We Can pledge, a journalist interviewed me for a Danish newspaper in early December. It’s not a regular occurrence for me, so I was a little bit excited and nervous about the whole process. I was to appear in print in Kristeligt Dagblad the following Tuesday.

At 4pm UK time – 5pm Danish time – I received an email from Bjarne that the interview had indeed gone to print that day and apologising for the lateness. He sent me a link to the article online. In case you didn’t know, Google Translate from Danish to English is just a little strange. But I got the gist and a Danish friend of mine remarked that I sounded ‘sensible’. I’ll take that.

Out of curiosity, or possibly led by my ego, I wondered if I knew anyone who might be able to pick up a copy (my Danish friend being in the countryside wasn’t near any shops). I put the call out on social media; on my wall, and in my favourite group, Digital Nomad Girls. By this time however it was 6pm in Copenhagen – not to mention cold and dark.

Do I have any connections in Copenhagen/Denmark at this very moment?

If so here’s a strange request – would you be willing to pick up a copy of today’s edition of Kristeligt Dagblad? (Tuesday)

Context: I’m in the paper today, with a big ol’ mugshot and I have this romantic notion to get my hands on an original copy…

It must have been a slow news day, or perhaps a light-hearted challenge in the midst of a global pandemic a few weeks before Christmas struck a chord with a few people. Within minutes, people were tagging others, giving suggestions, letting me know they’d asked a friend. My Swedish Airbnb host from 2018 who lives near the Danish border shared it with her contacts, and old uni friends were reminding me of mutual friends in Copenhagen. I was receiving notifications of the best kind and having a lot of fun.

A Danish acquaintance and founder of the Human Library ran into a few local stores to have a look. It turns out it is quite a niche paper and isn’t distributed across all the Copenhagen districts. So he didn’t have any luck but I felt super grateful for the attempt. An old uni friend who I haven’t crossed paths with in years tried 4 kiosks before giving up!

And then a more promising lead. A girl from my old school, who was 2 places after me in the register but we’ve not seen each other for well over a decade, tagged a friend of hers, Emily. The updates started coming in from Emily, a vet based in Essex:

Ooo I can probably help..

I’ve sent a message.. awaiting a response..

A few hours later….

Sorted! Think I have a copy. Will know for absolute certain tomorrow.. x

I had a broad smile on my face the whole evening having thoroughly enjoyed myself and reflecting on the reach of a global network and a tool that enabled these connections.

The next morning Emily commented:

Right sorted for you Sophia. Can you PM me your address?

Emily had asked a family friend in Copenhagen who had picked a copy up, so that’s 4 degrees of separation.

Meanwhile over in the Facebook group another surprise. Of the many tagging of possible nomads in Copenhagen, one was Laura Amenta but in the flurry of commenting there was no response. Until Laura commented:

Thanks for tagging me Antra and Ely 🙂 – I did it Sophia!! it was quite the adventure, as I couldn’t find it in any shop or kiosk, then called the newspaper, then had to bike to their main office, bracing the Nordic rain….but I got it 😍🎉! Bought two, just in case 🤗. Your picture really is almost half of the page, SO exciting! Dm me your address, then I can post it to you as a little holiday gift xx

And accompanied it with a lovely selfie!

I was blown away. That’s quite an epic length to go to for a fellow group member – there’s more than 25 000 of us in that Facebook group! Laura is CEO and Founder of Palms Up Club, “help health & wellness entrepreneurs to build and grow their online presence.” 

We are part of a paid membership group for nomads, called the Inner Circle. We’ve seen each other a few times on virtual meetups, and I think we might have met once very briefly in a networking event in 2018 when she was in London.

On receipt of my gushing over-excited thanks Laura replied:

Sophia ❤️ seriously, this whole thing made me so happy, too…in those strange times there is nothing better than happy news and celebrating each other and feeling a big sense of connection and kindness in this world, even if it’s just from afar. So happy that I was able to gift you a smile today 🤗 xx

Which I think just about sums it up.

As 2021 arrived I started receiving packages through the door, with messages from strangers.

And so at the end of that endeavour I have ended up with 5 copies!

And the interview is on page 4 of the broadsheet. (I’d forgotten just how big the pages are!)

Thank you so much to Laura and Emily and her helpers.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with all these copies of the paper but in a way, that’s not the story here. The story is of random acts of kindness and a reminder that it’s not the tool itself that’s always the problem but how it is used and monetised. (Check out The Social Dilemma film if you haven’t already). As throngs flock to new tools like Telegram and Signal and the giants can silence world leaders – how do you imagine social media evolving? Can we strike a balance? Can it not be exploited to polarise communities yet allow and encourage meaningful connection and sparks of joy and serendipity?

Avatar photo Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts
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