A Kindness Filter

#nofilter

I’m sure you’ve seen this hashtag, right? It’s commonly used on social media, accompanying what the poster is claiming to be an untouched, unedited photograph. Sometimes the photo is of a beautiful sunset, or of someone being him/herself.

Screenshot from a #nofilter search on Instagram

I don’t know for sure – and didn’t even try to look this up – but I’m guessing the hashtag developed from the effects or filters someone can add to their photos on Instagram or Snapchat. How it came to be doesn’t really matter – at least not to me.

It’s just strange to me because #nofilter (with or without the hashtag) has always meant something else to me. (Sort of like how “hashtag” is really “pound” but don’t use the latter and expect anyone under 30 to know what you mean.)

When I was growing up, I heard “no filter” a lot. From everyone. Describing me. The point was that I said whatever came to my mind … no hesitation, no buffer, no filter. And, when I was younger, I carried that label with a badge of honor. I wasn’t going to censor myself. If I had an opinion on something, good or bad, nice or not, I would share it. I didn’t care who was around. Didn’t care if my opinion was relevant or not. Didn’t care whose feelings I hurt.

Yeah, I was a brat (the nicer of the “b” words you were thinking right then).

As I have grown, matured, gotten older, I’ve learned to filter myself. I don’t see it as censorship or some sort of denying of who I really am new-age psychobabble. I see it as knowing my audience (something writers should most definitely be able to do). I see it as an extension of the Golden Rule. I see it as simply being kind. Yeah, I had to learn how to be kind; but like most things, it gets easier the more you do it.

This past week has been a tough one. So much negativity from so many directions; so many not nice opinions close to home and around the world. Mean things aimed at my family. Harsh words spoken towards friends. Anger and hostility focused on complete strangers.

It’s so easy nowadays to broadcast whatever you want to say to the whole wide world. And, all too often, I think, people do it with #nofilter. It makes me so sad.

I keep remembering something my grandma used to say (and I know she wasn’t the only one): “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That used to bug the heck out of me when she’d say that (and I’d tell her as much, too). Now, I’d give anything to hear her say that again, just so I could reply: “You’re right, grandma. You’re so right.”

Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.

Ron Hall

At the risk of sounding like a dork, asking “can’t we all just get along,” why can’t we think more carefully about how our words affect others? Why can’t we have kindness filters?

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