Technology

The Algorithmic Accountability Act Is Designed to Remove Bias From Big Data

How does your Netflix account always seem to know just what cheesy rom-com or gory slasher flick you’re in the mood for? How is an iPhone X able to recognize your face as easily as a person does? How can Google Maps calculate routes that circumvent traffic jams and get you where you need to be in as little time as possible? These, and many other technological innovations, are possible due to algorithms. 

In the world of computer science, algorithms can be defined as lists of instructions that tell computers what to do. In this increasingly digital age, algorithms are a part of almost everything we do. Amazon uses algorithms to suggest items that you might want to browse. Online dating sites like eHarmony and OkCupid use algorithms to match up potential couples. Financial analysts and traders train algorithms to predict and react to fluctuations in the stock market at speeds that no human being could ever accomplish. Modern society has grown reliant on algorithms for a lot of the tasks we take for granted, and this reliance shows no signs of stopping. Although these increasingly complex algorithms present new and exciting opportunities to harness the power of computers to better modern life, they still have flaws. 

The Algorithmic Accountability Act, sponsored by (2020 presidential candidate) Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey and Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, seeks to address some of these flaws. Algorithms are essentially just lines and lines of code, and as such, they cannot think for themselves. However, algorithms often have the unintended effect of reflecting the unconscious biases of their creators. For example, a facial recognition algorithm called Rekognition, championed by computer engineers at Amazon, was recently accused of racism. In a study conducted at MIT, Rekognition could successfully identify the genders of lighter-skinned individuals, but misidentified the gender of darker-skinned individuals at a 20-30% rate. This isn’t because the algorithm itself harbors prejudice against people of color, but because its coders originally only trained it on white subjects. This major oversight could have dangerous implications in the real world — a recent Georgia Tech study concluded that the algorithms behind self-driving vehicles were consistently unable to identify dark-skinned people as pedestrians. In practice, that would make dark-skinned people more likely to get hit by self-driving cars than white people. Driverless cars aren’t the only technology accused of potentially dangerous bias — Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all been accused of algorithmic bias in the past five years. 

The Algorithmic Accountability Act would be a huge stride forward for ethics in tech. Under the act, large tech company and data broker algorithms would be held accountable to a greater degree — they would have to evaluate any algorithm involving behavior prediction, sensitive data, or the monitoring of publicly accessible spaces for discrimination and potential privacy breaches. If any concerns arose in these evaluations, tech companies would need to address them in a timely manner. This way, we can reap all the technological benefits that algorithms have to offer, but without suffering the discriminatory, hurtful, and even physically harmful consequences of race, gender, or class-based algorithmic bias. 

 

Offering Mental Health Benefits at Work Is Good Business

In the 24/7 economy, more and more full-time employees are reporting feeling burned out at work. Workplace alienation, unreasonable expectations, ubiquitous hours, unmanageable task-load, workplace politics, and the overwhelming necessity of having to be available via email and text at all hours are all key contributors as to why the modern workforce is feeling burned out.

According to a Gallup study, 23 percent of full-time employees report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. This burnout can be translated into stress that interrupts interpersonal relationships, to physical ailments in its extremes like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45. All of this healthcare spending adds up to around $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year.

Stress and burnout are very real problems that the modern day workforce are dealing with, and when that stress and burnout couples with undiagnosed, untreated, or inaccessible mental health issues, the complications can be even more severe. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, ranging in severity, with 40% of adults with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder not receiving treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illnesses cost about $100 billion a year in lost productivity due to hospitalization, loss of employment, impacted productivity, and shortened life spans.

Treatment for mental health is currently out of reach for many people. It takes time, money, and access to be able to begin treatment- that is why so many go untreated. There is also a stigma involved with mental illness, and for some that stigma is a barrier to health. If employers were to begin incorporating mental health access into their benefits, for all employees regardless of company status, such a move could be the groundswell of destigmatization that the mental health crisis facing us needs.

Companies at the top are already trying this approach to employee benefits to great success. The Silicon Valley juggernaut, Netflix, already sees this as a necessity in the modern workplace, and offers their employees the ability to take time for themselves when they need in addition to access to mental health services and parental leave. American Express offers employees on-site counseling, something that goes a long way for the destigmatization of therapy.

These efforts aren’t just ideas that sound good, they’re actually having a real and measurable impact on these businesses’ bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, “for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.” Meaning that when companies take their employee’s mental health seriously, they become four times as healthy and productive.

If these policies and programs can be scaled to the point where all employees have access to mental health treatment, then that could completely revolutionize how and who gets access to mental health. Such a change could revitalize not only our workspaces, but also how we relate to one another as a society. It is clear that investing in employee mental health offers numerous benefits personally, interpersonally, and at large. What needs to be clearer is how all employers can get there.

Rideshare Companies Should Offer an 'Electric Car Only' Option

In 2017 there were 159 million rideshare trips in New York City- with 66 million coming solely from Manhattan. In the same time period, globally, Uber facilitated four billion rides and created a $6 billion business with Uber Eats. This new influx of transport options has not gone without controversy, with rideshare companies being blamed for increased levels of traffic congestion in major cities, which leads to increases in pollution and carbon emissions and a decrease in public health.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

These companies aren’t going anywhere any time soon and have cemented themselves within the global infrastructure. Efforts to curtail the amounts of drivers able to work for rideshare companies, limitations on hours, and even so far as Lyft’s self imposed offer to purchase carbon offset credits, are all examples of efforts to reign in the new technology of on demand ride hailing. It is clear that technology has gotten ahead of regulation when it comes to ridesharing, and as these companies near their anniversary for a decade of existence, it is also clear that they are in deep need of an update to our current climate reality.

When Uber and Lyft were founded, they were considered upstarts challenging the status quo of the much entrenched taxi industry. There is absolutely no feasible way to consider these companies as upstarts anymore. They are both filed to go public, have more money available to them than potentially ever in the history of corporations, and have blown their local competition of taxi medallions out of the water. At some estimates, when both of these companies go public, there will be 10,000+ more millionaires in San Francisco— alone. These companies are the new status quo.

So how does all of this relate back to climate change?

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

If these companies are the new status quo, then they should act like it. It is an unavoidable fact that extreme climate change is happening, and that global corporations are a monumental perpetuator of the existential crisis that is currently facing the entirety of Earth.

At least with Uber, this is a company that has had to spend untold amounts of money, undergo numerous executive departures, and even changed their logo to seem more friendly. While historically less cutthroat, Lyft is also a company that really, really, wants you to think that they’re just your friendly neighborhood cab— despite the fact that they’re suing New York City over the city’s decision to make rideshare companies pay a minimum wage.

This is all to say that these companies clearly care about their public image, and have (since their inception) garnered enough economic standing to make global economic decisions. Elon Musk recently mused that Tesla’s mere existence speeds up the transition to the ideal of sustainable transport by at least 10 years. This makes total sense, given that when Tesla started out, oil and gas companies were actively lobbying electric cars out of existence. If Uber and Lyft gave their riders an option to filter their trips in a way that they only took their rideshare trips in electric vehicles, this could incentivize a similar electric acceleration in the rideshare market.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

66% of global consumers, and an astonishing 73% of millenials have reported that they would spend more money on sustainable products in comparison to less eco-friendly products of the same type. While an ‘Electric Only’ option might not be necessarily more expensive, there’s a chance for it to be slower. This could be a stretch of the imagination, but since time is money (or as the idiom goes), rideshare passengers might not mind the extra few minutes at pick-up, it they know that their trips are lessening the burden on the environment.

Neigh-sayers will say that electric cars still need electricity from somewhere, and that the majority of that electricity comes from non-renewable resources. This is true in one sense, that both ends need to be renewable for an electric car to be fully sustainable, but it is also usually a disingenuous attack. As more and more renewable energy capacity comes online, that electricity needs to go somewhere, and if a global rideshare corporation was to set a goal of having more riders go electric, then it very much stands to reason that is we can incentivize a transition— we should.

In conclusion, the argument boils down to this: are global corporations going to step up and take the climate crisis head on? In the case of rideshare companies, they have a potential to expedite the shift to electric transport. They currently aren’t doing much about this gleaming opportunity, despite setting mountains of cash on fire subsidizing the actual trips that they sell. If these companies really want to consider themselves the companies of the future, then they should better realize the reality of climate change.

Meet Trestle, the Company That Simplifies Ethical Shopping

For the conscientious shopper, buying almost anything these days has become a nightmare situation. Ethical concerns about chocolate and coffee production abound, and every few years reports of slave-like factory conditions in developing nations shock and devastate Western shoppers. Other considerations factor into the anxiety of the ethical shopper, too. A company that treats its employees like gold might still be environmentally sustainable. Worse, some brands participate in greenwashing, a marketing trick meant to make consumers believe that they’re greener than they actually are. Meanwhile, the time necessary to research informed choices is more than the average working person can handle.

Enter Trestle, a shopping research service whose goal is to empower ethical consumers. This innovative company intends to take the guesswork out of shopping by bringing their customers the information they need to buy consciously. In the process, it’ll show people how to support the prosperity of products and sellers that make the world a better place.

Jennifer Johnson (L), Carl Hickerson (R) on the Pacific Northwest Trail

Trestle’s history

Trestle is the brainchild of Jennifer Johnson and Carl Hickerson, who graciously sat down with us for an interview. Like many great ideas, the one that eventually became Trestle was born on a long hike. Experienced in project and business management, Jennifer and Carl were up-and-coming young professionals with a shared hope of changing the world. As they traveled the Pacific Northwest Trail together, they discussed the potential of for-profit business to make a difference in the world, a potential that, they agreed, amounted to a responsibility. By mitigating their impact on the planet or by refusing to exploit people in economically vulnerable parts of the world, companies could stand in for hundreds or even thousands of consumers whose individual efforts wouldn’t be enough to make a significant change in the world. They could represent an aggregate desire for justice on the part of everyone who chose to support them by purchasing their products.

Ultimately, the two came to the conclusion that every purchase is a statement that matters. Each tells its company, ethical and otherwise, that its customers support the company’s actions. Looking at their own shopping practices in this light, Jennifer and Carl were embarrassed. Like most Americans, they often chose their purchases by convenience rather than by their own ethical standards. As bad as this made them feel, they weren’t entirely at fault. Conscious shopping, they learned, was precipitously difficult for an individual. Doing the research, seeking out brands, and finding locations to purchase products consciously required an investment of time that most people simply don’t have. Mindful consumerism needed to combine ethical standards with the convenience of conventional shopping. This became the founding principle of Trestle.

What Trestle does

Trestle is a new kind of shopping service: one that doesn’t shop for you, but which provides research which could be time limiting for the average person. It also operates on an affordable subscription model not much more expensive than a reasonably-priced gym membership. Trestle customers can sign up for $10/month memberships, for which they get unlimited reports, or “Trestle Tracks,” on any product or company they’d like to know more about. These reports contain expert-level research on any consumer item that the customer wants to know about. In an economic landscape crowded with products, this really takes the guesswork out of purchasing, especially when it comes to items of significance like furniture. Trestle Tracks cover the top three or four company or product performers for each report, presenting the customer with both options and information. It’s not hard to imagine this as the shopping trend of the future. Millennials in particular are famous for wanting to shop according to their values. Jennifer points out that “81% of millennials believe that companies should take active approaches to improving the environment and 3/4 consumers would actually pay more for sustainable and ethically-made goods.” The success of organic food and buy-local movements attests to the growing demand for products with socially and environmentally positive impacts.

Trestle’s Brand Explorer  lets you search through products and brands based off of the values like “Fair Trade,” or “B-Corp”

Trestle’s Brand Explorer lets you search through products and brands based off of the values like “Fair Trade,” or “B-Corp”

Trestle’s research practice considers each company or product in light of the shopper’s particular ethical concerns. For example, a shopper who cares about the environment and wants to buy eco-friendly toothbrushes will get a different report from one who cares about fair labor practices and wants to buy a dress. The result is information that’s tailored to the individual’s values. Transparency, sustainability, fair labor, and animal cruelty are all factors by which Trestle’s customers can ask to rate and rank companies. The company’s business highlights page, which includes Patagonia, Mammut, and MUTU Coffee, is an example of the quality and character of companies that fit many shopper’s expectations for ethically acceptable practices.

As of the writing of this profile, Trestle is less than three years old. It only began actively taking subscriptions in January of 2019. Even though it’s still young, Jennifer and Carl have big plans for the future. The company will soon expand its offerings so that buyers can take Trestle with them to the store, where it could make an even more significant difference to its clientele. After all, when faced with fifty similar-looking cereals at the supermarket, having Trestle on your side could mean the difference between consciousness and convenience.

Trestle lets you explore  based on Sustainability, Fair Labor, Social Impact, Cruelty Free, Transparency, and more

Trestle lets you explore based on Sustainability, Fair Labor, Social Impact, Cruelty Free, Transparency, and more

What Makes A Company Ethical?

Although it uses research to rank and rate companies, Trestle doesn’t deliver verdicts on whether companies are objectively “good.” There’s no Trestle stamp of approval or Trestle-approved business directory - at least, not yet. Instead, Trestle looks at the company’s value claims. If a customer wants to buy sustainably, for example, Trestle might consider a company’s marketing or message that their products are 100% biodegradable. They’d look into the validity of that claim, as well as others that the company makes about its sustainability practices, and rate the company based on how well it measures up to its own standards. Then, if the company is a good match for the customer’s requirements, Trestle will recommend it. Jennifer describes this as the Match.com of e-commerce. The service Trestle provides is more about compatibility with the consumer’s interests than an absolute standard of quality. Ultimately, it’s up to the customer to decide what they care about.

Customer response has been very enthusiastic. Shoppers are tired of feeling like dupes when their preferred brand turns out to have a terrible human rights record or a history of dumping toxic waste. In a nation where the average millennial works 45 hours per week, doing personal research on every brand might add hours of planning to every shopping trip. Every new product on the market would be a question mark, and starting a new hobby would be prohibitive. Companies that behave badly profit off of the average person’s inability to keep up with their behavior. Trestle’s model explodes that factor. For their customers, there will be no more uncertainty.

Since opening their digital doors in January of 2019, Trestle’s customer response has been tremendous. The young company has fielded inquiries about beauty products, clothing, art supplies, furniture, and more. Jennifer attributes the company’s momentum to the fact that people want to patronize companies that think like they do. There’s no joy in buying from an organization that will make the world a worse place, but supporting a company that makes both a good product and a positive difference is a double value.

Trestle provides information about  both individual products and entire brands

Trestle provides information about both individual products and entire brands

Shopping Mindfully

Philosophically, shopping consciously means shopping with intention. Jennifer tells In Kind that online shopping has reinforced a preference for convenience in our culture. There’s a level of casualness to shopping that simply didn’t exist before everything was available for the minimum price at the touch of a button. The fact that anyone with a credit card can buy anything, no matter how obscure, over the Internet may have generated a new kind of consumer complacency. This may be good for certain companies’ quarterly reports, but it’s not ideal for humankind.

Mindful shopping isn’t just a way to live according to ethical values. It’s a way to reclaim a consumer process that seems to depend on the customer being at least partially checked out of the buying process. If knowledge is power, then knowing about our purchasing options returns a certain amount of power to us as consumers. It forces us to think as we buy rather than simply looking for the lowest price. Minimalists already appreciate that an easy-come, easy-go culture leads to a certain amount of devaluation, not just of the intangible ethical tenets that matter to us, but of the objects themselves. When it doesn’t matter where a purchase came from, then does the purchase itself mean as much? Apparently, a mindlessly bought item can be cheap in more ways than one.

From Left to Right: Damola Omotosho (CTO), Carl Hickerson (Founder), Jennifer Johnson (Founder)

From Left to Right: Damola Omotosho (CTO), Carl Hickerson (Founder), Jennifer Johnson (Founder)

Jennifer sees Trestle as a way to build an alternative consumer system. In many ways, it counters the assumption of the corporate mainstream that customers don’t have or need meaning in their financial transactions. Instead, Trestle assumes that their clients are intelligent and concerned, interested in the world around them and eager to be informed. It’s a respectful point of view that’s much lacking in an economic landscape where consumers are often treated as forces of nature, statistics, or sources of revenue. Perhaps it’s time that the buyers of America stopped tolerating companies that ignore both the greater good and their customers’ desire to make the world a better place. Maybe it’s time that companies who insist on upholding their ethical standards are found and brought into their deserving spotlight. If that time is here, and a new generation of companies is set to thrive on customer desire to do good, then Trestle will certainly be in the vanguard. Jennifer and Carl may yet prove that business can change the world.

You can learn more about Trestle on their website, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Ecosia: The Search Engine That Turns Profits Into Trees

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that about 18.7 million acres of forests are cut down each year, roughly equivalent to 27 full-sized football fields every minute. These forests are crucial for absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, maintaining biodiversity, balancing the water cycle, preventing soil erosion, and providing food, water, and shelter for approximately 1.6 billion people around the world. How can you do your part to slow deforestation and restore our planet’s supply of trees? It may not be realistic for you to go out into the wild and plant a tree yourself, but there are still important ways you can contribute! For example, Ecosia, a free search engine founded in 2009 by entrepreneur and activist Christian Kroll, is doing amazing work to help mitigate the effects of deforestation. Restoring the world’s forests is just a few clicks away!

Ecosia is a search engine that uses its ad revenue to fund reforestation projects all over the world, from Tanzania to Indonesia to Brazil. In order to best direct their income, Ecosia partners with nonprofit organizations like TreeAid in Ghana, which restores important watersheds in rural communities, and FairVentures in Indonesia, which helps restore the natural habitat of wild orangutans. Right now, Ecosia and its 7 million active users have gained enough traction to be able to plant one tree every second, amounting to over 50 million trees planted in total. Their goal is to plant one billion trees worldwide. If you’re interested in tracking their progress, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for their email newsletter! Every time you use Ecosia to look something up, any ad revenue gained from your search goes towards these reforestation projects. According to Ecosia’s FAQ page, it takes about 45 searches’ worth of ad revenue to plant one tree. You can track your progress using Ecosia’s personal counter, which appears next to the search bar and lets you know how many trees’ worth of searches you’ve made!

Ecosia isn’t just taking a stand against deforestation — they’ve also committed themselves to transparency and privacy as a search engine, making them a great alternative to Google, Bing, and Yahoo for people who are concerned about their digital footprint. Unlike other search engines, Ecosia refuses to sell your search data to third party advertising companies or use external tracking tools. They also don’t create persona profiles for their users, and they anonymize all search data within 7 days of each search. All of Ecosia’ searches are encrypted using a self-hosted, in-house analytics system, and finally, you can opt out of all tracking services by activating the “Do Not Track” setting on your browser. In order to maintain the utmost level of transparency, Ecosia publishes monthly financial reports, which detail exactly how much ad revenue they made, exactly how much money went into tree planting, and exactly which nonprofit organizations received reforestation money.

If you’re looking for a super easy way to do your part in the fight against deforestation, consider making Ecosia your default search engine on your laptop or desktop computer. Without even thinking of it, you’ll be contributing to crucial reforestation efforts all over the world. Plus, you can rest assured that your private information stays private, which means that both you and the environment benefit from Ecosia!

GoFundMe’s Campaign to Pay Workers Affected by the Government Shutdown

On December 22, 2018, the United States’ government shutdown indefinitely. As of writing this, the government has been shutdown for 34 days, making it the longest running government shutdown in United States history. While Senators are still being paid during the halt, roughly 800,000 federal employees don’t get to share in that luck, and have been going without pay for as long as the lapse in government.

In response to this, the people behind the crowdfunding site GoFundMe have set up a campaign to help alleviate the financial burden placed on now-unpaid government workers. As of writing, the campaign has raised $343,629 set to be distributed directly to the employees affected.

“The money raised on this GoFundMe will be distributed to nonprofit organizations across the country that are offering general relief to government workers, including but not limited to, food, counseling, and housing support.” -GoFundMe

The organization plans to release a list of all of the nonprofits that they plan to distribute the funds to, but in the meantime have announced that they are partnering with the nonprofit Direct Impact Fund.

Since the federal workers affected by the government shutdown began missing paychecks, stories have been surfacing about the real world harm that an ambiguous sounding “government shutdown” is having. Stories of government employees close to eviction and struggling to purchase daily essentials are becoming commonplace. While GoFundMe’s campaign won’t pay everyone’s rent or feed every employee for the foreseeable duration, it is good to see the outpour of support for these people who are caught up in a political moment.

So far, a bill has passed the House to open the government back up and the Senate is currently working on a plan of their own. Because of the dense political gridlock surrounding the issue of the shutdown, it isn’t necessarily clear when the government will re-open. But until then, it is important to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of real people being deeply affected by what is currently a political standoff.

You can find the campaign here.

Facebook Is Matching Donations Made on Their Platform This Giving Tuesday

The holidays are a time for giving, and this year Facebook is helping your gifts mean just a little bit more. On #GivingTuesday, November 27th starting at 8AM, you can start a fundraiser or donate to the charity of your choice. On this day, Facebook and PayPal will match donations by users up to $7,000,000 or the time reaches 11:59PM.

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That is $5,000,000 more than last years donation match of $2,000,000, and thanks to the global nature of Facebook and Paypal, that means donations can be sent to even the smallest of charities based in your very own community.

On November 27th, 5 days after Black Friday, generous users have just one day in order to double their donations for the cause that matters most to them. As with most donation matches, there are a few catches. Donations can only be made to US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and those nonprofits have to be able to receive their funds through Facebook. There is also a cap of 250k per nonprofit, and 20k per donor for the match.

Now is one of the best times to give after the recent disasters that have been felt all over the world. The wildfires that have left over 10,000 people without homes, hurricane Michael that did over 14 billion in damage, as well as mudslides and flooding all over the states.

Giving Tuesday has a long history, starting in 2012. The 92nd street Y and the United Nations Foundation decided to hold the event as a response to the consumerism seen on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. The annual tradition that is supposed to mark how much we have to be thankful for has been overblown in many ways by the sales that have leaked from Black Friday onto Thanksgiving itself.

These two founders decided the Tuesday after Black Friday would be the chance for people to give back to the world, and to show the true spirit of the holidays. Their efforts were a big success, and now Giving Tuesday raises hundreds of millions every year for charity.

While giving money is the main way to donate, the Giving Tuesday foundation also encourages you to donate time and goods to local charities, and even has a convenient search bar where you can find local charities to volunteer at.

For most of us, time is something we can little afford to give, but we can afford to drop a couple dollars into a fundraiser when we're clicking around on Facebook—and thanks to the generosity of Facebook and Paypal, even a small donation of a few dollars will be doubled if you do it on Giving Tuesday.

You can also help spread the word about Giving Tuesday by using their hashtag, #GivingTuesday and sharing it on social media. Together we can make a difference, and help charities all over the US have a brighter and merrier holiday. This Tuesday, mark your calendar so you can kick off the giving season with double the impact, thanks to the generosity of Facebook.

RideAustin: The Nonprofit Rideshare App That Gives Back

Rideshare programs are popping up all over America, allowing drivers to make some extra cash from their vehicle, and giving passengers a new option for travel. These companies are both international, national, and regional. RideAustin is one such company. Based in Austin, Texas, allows Austinites to choose from background checked drivers, and even female drivers if they also happen to be female. It is a popular app unique to the area.

Where companies like Uber and Lyft entered the Austin market with company standards that did not meet those of the city of Austin's, RideAustin is a non-profit organization that was created due to Lyft and Uber choosing to leave the area. Lyft and Uber did not want to have to fingerprint their drivers, a piece of legislation local to the area that was passed when the concept of ridesharing was just getting started. The sudden loss of rideshare programs left a transportation gulf for both riders and drivers alike. Over 10,000 people who used the services were left without any way to get rides. RideAustin became the solution in the wake of Lyft and Uber leaving.

Now those who prefer to grab a ride through the rideshare program have another reason to choose RideAustin. Riders can choose to round up their fare to the nearest dollar, with the money benefiting the charity of their choice every time they ride.

Source:  RideAustin

Source: RideAustin

The charities available to choose from include options from Central Texas Food Bank, who's "mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger," to the Texas Autism Society, which "is the nation's leading grassroots autism organization working to increase public awareness for those with Autism, advocate for appropriate services and provide information on treatment, research, and education."

In total, RideAustin has been able to donate over $250,000 just through the few extra pennies collected by charitable riders every time they ride. 

The company was a totally collaborative effort- built by the community, for the community. The app itself was donated by the tech field, and over 7 million dollars raised by the community and through various grants in order to bring it into existence. Because this rideshare non-profit was created with the community in mind, the Charity RoundUp option was built directly into the company, so riders could start offering a few extra cents to charity from the very beginning.

RideAustin also has several other community based projects in the works that also aim to aid those most in need in Austin. In a collaboration with the CCC (Community Care Collaborative) and the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, RideAustin will pick patients up and help them get to their important medical appointments for free.

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Even though Uber and Lyft are now returning to the area after the fingerprinting legislation was over turned, but they may not find the area as welcoming as it used to be. Not only do people fall into habits, but Austinites love their local app, and with other companies such as Fare having moved into the area as well since Uber and Lyft left, there may not be as many drivers or riders available for these companies. Especially since neither of those larger rideshare companies offer the ability to give back while getting where you need to go.

RiseAustin was born out of necessity, but has grown into something that the big rideshare companies could learn from. Uber and Lyft are often discredited for not taking their impact on the markets that they operate in into account, with Uber taking the majority of that criticism. Since RideAustin was made for the community that it serves, by the community that it serves- while also giving riders the opportunity to give back to that same community, RideAustin has become a model company that, while familiar to those in Austin, should be taken note of across the rideshare economy.

You can learn more about RideAustin on their website.

Girls Who Code: Bringing Women Back to Technology

Right now, the United States is suffering from a huge computing crisis. It's not a virus or a new technology, but simply a lack of skilled coders. Right now there are 500,000 computer science jobs open, but only 40,000 graduates to fill them. With coding and other jobs in the computer field becoming more important to businesses everywhere, that gap is only widening. One of the reasons? Half of our future generation is being ignored as potential people to fill the gap.

Men vastly outnumber women in the computer science field, and a common answer to this problem is that it starts with the educational system. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2015, women accounted for only 18% of all computer science degrees earned for that year, and even less for women of color. This is reflected in the job market where, according to the Observer, women in tech represent only 25% of computing jobs- while also earning less of a salary than their male counterparts 63% of the time.

Some people even argue that women will never be a major part of the sciences, not from anything people are doing, but due to personality differences in men vs. women. Their arguments, however, are false and don't measure up to studies. This can be shown not only in paper, but in countries outside the US. In India, half of the students in computer science classes are female, and they perform just as well in examinations.

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Despite the conflicts on the gender gap, the fact is jobs need filling, and women weren't being catered to. At least until Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to girls and organizes workshops for them to learn computer programming. These workshops can also be hosted by community organizers and leaders that register an independent workshop through the Girls Who Code website. These workshops can even be found throughout the US in all 50 states.

Girls Who Code focuses on computer clubs, for children as young as third grade, and has both camps and summer program for kids 6th grade through 12th grade. Their efforts have been highly effective. Those who complete the program often go on to graduate in computer science, at a rate of 15 times the national average. 

Their success is so great, they are projecting to help close the gender gap by 2027. Girls Who Code has already helped 90,000 girls, and continues to help more every day. Their efforts have been especially beneficial to minorities that are underrepresented in technology, such as black and Latina women, and low-income girls that may not have the same opportunities available to them. By choosing a computer science degree, they choose a better life for themselves, by helping to diversify tech or by ending the cycle of poverty. 

“...what we are doing is preparing students to be able to tackle STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]-related fields and to feel relatively comfortable with it as the technology changes and the workforce changes.” -Tracy Gray, the Managing Director of the American Institutes for Research

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Bootcamps and workshops like the ones that Girls Who Code put on are not only important now because of the amount of job openings, but are also important for the future. As the work force becomes more and more digital, with more traditional jobs being phased out due to forces like automation and artificial intelligence, teaching girls and women to code better prepares them for the future of work- a future where coding will be table stakes for many jobs.

When women get jobs in technology and even out the gender differences in companies, those companies also go on to preform better. According to a study reported by Forbes, "tech companies with a higher proportion of women employees, especially in leadership roles, perform better - both financially and in terms of creativity and innovation."

Even if girls can't find a good coding job, the odds are good they have a strong future in the tech industry—but only if they have the qualifications to apply. Girls Who Code still has a great deal of work to do. There are thousands of girls to be reached. Without programs like this one, they can slip through the cracks, and miss out on a career they might find themselves enjoying.

$20M Raised To Help Reunite Families Separated at US Border

In a heart wrenching 8 minute audio heard around the world, the sound of children screaming and crying for their families shattered all barriers in the political world. Their sobs and begging were heard by everyone from President Donald Trump, all the way down to US citizens simply scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.

Charlotte and Dave Willner, a couple who work in Silicon Valley, were just as moved as the rest of the world when they saw a photo capturing the essence of the terror of these children. In the photo, a toddler screams as her mother is arrested and taken away. The face struck home for the couple, because the child looks very much like their own daughter when she is terrified.

They decided to create a Facebook fundraiser to help a single immigrant family reunite with their child. The Willners set the goal amount as $1,500, which they hoped would be enough to pay the bail for one family. The couple felt they had a pretty good chance of meeting the goal with 1,700 friends each on Facebook. What happened next took their breath away.

Source:  CNBC

Source: CNBC

Within just a few days of starting the fundraiser, they had managed to raise more than 5 million dollars. It has become the largest fundraising campaign on Facebook. While there have been some big donations, including from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, the average donation is just $40. They come from citizens who also have seen and heard their own children crying, and responded. People have donated from every single state, Puerto Rico, and even other countries.

All of the money is going to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) based in Texas. RAICES provides lawyers for children and their families, and pays the bonds for those who are currently in jail. The fundraiser couldn't have come at a better time for them. Just a few months ago, they were forced to make the announcement that RAICES would be taking on no new cases due to cuts in government funding. (They still had enough funding to continue old cases.) The money lost totaled $300,000. Their total annual budget is usually under 7,000,000.

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Now, thanks to the 20 million dollars raised, they have enough to help every single family currently caught up in the immigration crisis. They are not only hiring on more lawyers, they are also seeking out psychologists and pediatricians to help treat the PTSD no doubt present in the children from this traumatic event.

On top of the donations, RAICES has also been inundated with offers for volunteer work. People all over the globe are offering to fly to Texas to help give them the support they need. When it has largely been just one admin and the rest lawyers, this is welcome help for the non-profit.

Charlotte and Dave Willner will continue to keep the fundraiser open for as long as there is interest in the campaign. The entire amount raised will be released to RAICES by Facebook some time in mid-July. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.

Apple is Bringing Programing to Chicago Schools

Computers are an every day essential in our modern lives. Hardly any of us can get through a day without resorting to some sort of technology to help us through it, and most of us spend the majority of our work life on a computer or cell phone. According to Recode, this reality has even gotten to the point that nearly half of American teens are online 'almost constantly.'

Despite how critical technology is for our day to day living, computer programming is not nationally mandated to be taught, and school systems have been slow to add on classes that reflect our need to understand technology, until now. The city of Chicago is working with Apple to provide education to thousands of school age children on how to code.

The new program, entitled “Everyone can Code,” teaches children of all ages Apple's Swift Code. This is a popular code used to make many of the apps we are familiar with today, and is fairly simple and easy to understand compared to many other computer languages. 

Children learn how to code through Swift Playground, a series of simple lessons made up of puzzles and games that the code can solve. As you advance through the game, so does your knowledge of coding. Apple also plans to make this program available for after school clubs, so that children will have as many chances as possible to learn these valuable skills.

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There are nearly 500,000 children in Chicago, and Apple is working hand in hand with the city of Chicago itself, as well as Northwestern University to help make the new changes easier. Northwestern staff will be working directly with teachers to help them learn how to teach the Everyone Can Code Curriculum. The lessons are free for any teacher who wishes to bring this curriculum to their school.

Apple is also providing all of the equipment at the Center of Excellence, where these free classes are being offered to teachers, needed in order to learn the curriculum. This includes iPads, Macs, as well as the necessary accessories that go with them.

Coding is a skill that is in high demand right now. Today's technology, from the computers that help run our cars to the apps on our phones all need a coder to create them. According to code.org, there are over 500,000 high paying programming jobs available right now, but less than 50,000 coders entering the workforce each year. As more of our every day items require technology to move forward, the demand for coders is expected to only grow.

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Apple's new program comes at a very good time for the world, and may help encourage young children to fill some of these needed jobs. With the average salary of a computer programmer around $80,000, learning to code could make a bright future for any child who takes an interest in this program. As an added benefit, some computer programming jobs can be earned through apprenticeship programs as opposed to a college degree - which can be a cost barrier for those who stand to gain the most from a job in a growing field.

This investment comes at a vital time as the city of Chicago has faced stress on its educational system in the past few years over budget and funding issues that has lead to the closure of schools. At a time where computer programing is not yet mandatory nation wide, this new program could lead to Chicago becoming another source of recruitment for highly coveted jobs in technology- especially given that Apple and fellow tech company Amazon are both searching for cities to build ancillary headquarters.

The program is already rolling out to schools around Chicago, and will be one of the largest roll outs of Apple's program so far.

Your Lyft Ride Is Now Carbon Neutral

When we think of Lyft, the ride sharing program that allows ordinary people to turn their cars into taxis, sustainability is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. After all, more cars on the road mean more green house gases being released into the atmosphere. How can a business that encourages driving over the use of bicycles or large public transit be a good thing?

Source:  Lyft

Source: Lyft

In a groundbreaking new announcement, Lyft just proved that any business can make a positive impact on the environment. John Zimmer, co-owner of Lyft, made public that Lyft would be buying carbon-offsets for every single ride Lyft provides. This effectively makes every Lyft vehicle carbon neutral while performing its services. The carbon-offsets also cover the vehicle in route to pick up the passenger, ensuring that the “empty miles” that sometimes make ride sharing worse for climate change, are also off-set.

According to the post written on Medium, this is a multi-million dollar investment. It is the equivalent of planting millions of trees, and has real and long term impacts on the areas where Lyft operates. To achieve these aggressive goals, Lyft partnered with a company called 3Degrees, which specializes in helping large companies meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

You'll be able to see the impact Lyft is having on the environment right away. Since Lyft wanted their carbon offsets to specifically target the auto industry as well as the United States where they operate, that is where they chose to target their carbon-offsets. One of their largest projects is in an auto parts company.

Source:  Lyft

Source: Lyft

Instead of heavy steel parts, a company invested in by Lyft, the Meridian Magnesium project, will be able to produce parts from 75% lighter magnesium instead. These parts are more expensive than steel parts, and though they are potentially stronger and definitely beneficial to the planet, they aren't usually made due to their high cost.

Lyft's carbon offsets will have a huge and immediate impact on the auto industry, making cars created with these parts more environmentally friendly for the lifetime of those vehicles. Best of all, the benefits of these changes go into effect this year. Lyft is carbon neutral as of 2018 through these purchases, and isn't simply pledging to decrease their energy levels within the safety net of a few years.

John Zimmer reports being very inspired by Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce, and believes that businesses can make powerful changes to effect the planet. With this announcement, he has taken that idea and turned it into something very real, with the potential to change the world. Lyft eventually plans to add entirely electric and self-driving cars to its fleet, and has predicted that owning your own vehicle will be redundant as early as 2025. 

Regardless of how the future turns out, Lyft has made amazing strides in the fight against climate change. They provide a phenomenal example to other companies about what large business can do, any large business, when presented with a global threat such as climate change.

Image source: Lyft

The Impossible Burger and Earth's Future

An Impossible Burger has been ordered at the Salty Dog in Brooklyn, New York. The thick red patty is placed on the grill, and the heavenly smell of cooking meat fills the air. The burger is cooked to still slightly pink perfection, crispy and brown on the outside, and nestled into a bun with a crown of lettuce and tomato. A handful of golden fries are laid alongside, and the burger is taken out to the hungry guest. The patron bites into the juicy burger, enjoying the glorious sin that is perfectly cooked beef.

Except there is no beef in it.

The Impossible Burger is part of the artificial meat movement, a growing phenomenon where meat is consumed in every possible manner, without ever once slaughtering an animal to get it. Gone are the days where carnivores had to choose between their ideals about the environment, and their desire to sink their teeth into a fresh and juicy steak.

Faux meat, such as the Impossible Burger, uses the power of heme to make their burgers so realistic. Heme, which is found in animal blood and is responsible for much of the flavor we associate with meat, is also found in the roots of legumes. These foods have come a long way from the lackluster bean patties of yesterday, but they aren't the only option now for carnivores with a conscience.

Another option currently being worked on by scientists is lab grown meat. While lab grown meant has been around for over a decade, you haven't seen it in the supermarket yet because of its costs. The first burger patty grown without the need to slaughter a cow cost $323,000 to produce. The cost of it now? $11.

While it may be a few more years before these lab produced meats become widely available, the growing demand for meat that doesn't impact the environment has been heard loud and clear by investors all around the world.  The reason for this shift isn't about our emotional bond with livestock, although this has been the main reason people have stopped eating meat in the past. It is due to a far more urgent reality: Agriculture is currently responsible for 16% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Outside of the energy sector, agriculture has the largest impact on global warming.

While 16% might seem like a small amount, this is actually around 6 billion tons of GHGs flooding into our atmosphere every year. Most of those carbon emissions come from livestock, from ruminants in particular. As Earth's temperatures rise, the alarming state the world is in has put extensive pressure on countries around the world to do something about it, and fast. Island nations such as the Maldives and Nauru may completely disappear due to climate change, and some nations have already been forced to relocate due to rising sea waters.

Greenhouse gases aren't the only issues the intensive farming of animals is causing the planet. 80% of amazon forest clearing is so that farmers can raise cattle in the cleared areas. This magnifies the problem by removing carbon sequestering trees while at the same time adding methane producing cows. 

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The deforestation is responsible for yet another crisis the planet is facing, the mass extinction of animals. On any given day, 150-200 animal species go extinct. These include animals we are familiar with, such as the West African black rhinoceros, which was declared extinct in 2011. Others are animals we don't even know about yet, dying because of narrow ranges destroyed by habitat loss. While extinction is a normal part of nature, this is several times the normal rate of extinction, and much of it is attributed to agriculture.

These alarming statistics are pretty conclusive evidence against keeping livestock, but culture is a powerful thing. For the majority of first world citizens, the idea of losing their beloved burgers is a hard one to accept, and it is easier to turn a blind eye on global warming or point at other, easier things to fix, than to change your lifestyle to match your ideals.

While this may seem like a petty excuse, it is one that needs to be addressed if real change is going to take place. Ending meat consumption is hard, and big business doesn't make it any easier. We are constantly surrounded by advertisements tempting us to eat more and more, and meat as well as other animal products are heavily subsidized.

When a bunch of carrots costs more than a burger off the dollar menu, choosing the option that is better for the planet gets a whole lot harder. If the true price of meat, dairy, and other animal products were reflected in the prices, meat eaters themselves might well find the strength to stop the cycle themselves. For some, who may even want to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle such as veganism or even a Mediterranean diet, which is less environmentally destructive, it is impossible. They are simply priced out of the market.

Source:  Eater

Source: Eater

In the Fake America controlled by subsidies, milk sometimes costs less than $2 a gallon, and eggs can go for as little as $0.99. If the true prices were reflected on the store shelves instead of in our taxes, that gallon of milk could be as much as $6 a gallon, and so could the eggs.

In the mean time, those who care about the environment and truly want to save the planet are surrounded by difficult choices every day. It's thanks to incredibly realistic faux meats like The Impossible Burger, and lab grown meats that don't require the intensive farming cheap meat does, that other options are now on the table.

We need to make a shift in our diets in order for the next generation to have a future at all. That much is clear. Doing so requires a social shift that may seem impossible, but with the help of scientists and other researchers all around the world, that change is becoming easier every day. 

Click here to find where to try the Impossible Burger.

The Kind Feed: How Social Media Can Be Repurposed for Good

I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

 

Social media has become a source of anxiety for many users. Today’s social media has become a surrogate platform for news, activism, debate, and the sharing of ideas and experiences. Second to those newfound purposes, it’s a platform for social connection. Joining a site under the pretense of social connection and falling into the habit of using it for other purposes takes its toll.

What makes most social media sites less-friendly from social connection in this day is, in part, the lack of kindness expressed by users. People are taking their aggression and bad moods out on their social media feeds, whether it be in the form of: heated arguments, pointing out negative traits on public posts, or seeking to disagree with the provocative (or otherwise) posts that their friends make. This is turning what should be a fun, friendly environment into a platform filled with toxicity and negativity.

To be fair, it’s not exclusively the fault of the users. There are other reasons why negativity has found such a home in social media. But not being to blame isn’t enough to protect users from the effects that this influx of negativity causes. Frankly, people are losing their sense of empathy and their ability to see the person on the other screen as a living, breathing human being. People are being affected from the small scale in their personal daily lives, to the large scale on a societal level. With 2.46 billion users across all popular platforms of social media, that’s a pretty large wing span with which to spread a wave of negativity. It has to change.

Hope isn’t lost. The positivity movement is a strong one. A light has been cast on toxic practices on social media, and people aren’t standing for it anymore. There are benefits to spreading kindness on social media, not the least of which is undoing some of the toxicity that has previously been spread.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

The Personal Level

On a smaller scale, social media affects users in a major way. People are spending massive amounts of time on their phones; this time is measured in hours where a slightly more than a decade ago it was measured in minutes. However, the time spent on social media and on our phones is a topic for another day- the focus here is about what people can do with social media by being kind, and how it can benefit them in return.

The draw to social media is a simple and fruitful one. It allows one to keep a connection alive with people who otherwise may have easily drifted away, such as college friends, high school buddies, coworkers from a former job, distant relatives, and the like. It also offers an easy approach to making new friends with a wealth of groups for just about any topic or hobby under the sun. Simply put, it’s easy to keep these connections alive without needing to actually put effort forth on an individual basis. This might sound negative, but the result is that people are able to keep a larger community of people around them than they used to.

Beyond keeping connections and making new ones, social media gives people a stage with which to stand on and share their lives with an audience… only, unlike an actor, they get to choose their audience and thus don’t need to share fiction. It’s also a place for things like: new recipes, local places, the opening of new cafes or restaurants, cute videos, art, and more. Seeing these things on a feed give little bursts of happiness and intrigue right at one’s finger tips!

Social media also provides a break from the fast pace of real life. It’s a way to press pause on the world’s happenings all around. In a way, it’s an escape. But unlike reading or video games, it’s an escape into the real-world. The virtual real-world. Things are more real than in a novel on social media even though the happenings are detached from one’s own life. People can breathe. They can read what their friends are up to, the updates on loved ones’ lives, and see what people are sharing and talking about. It’s a way to keep up with the world while pressing pause on one’s own. This break helps relieve stress.

However, that break can also cause stress if people aren’t using it to spread positivity and kindness. People have to be mindful of how they’re spending their time on social media in order to put the kindness out that they want to receive. For example, scrolling past an update of a friend getting a new job or a relationship announcement or the like without engaging leaves friends wanting for that friendly connection. So, when it comes the time for that person to post good news, the wanting friend doesn’t feel inclined to engage. Social media, in this way, is give and take. Like any gift, giving and receiving feels good. Missing those opportunities diminishes the experience as a whole.

That same idea of giving and taking works with what people choose to share. If one only shares bad news or politically charged posts, it’s going to warn others off engaging. This makes social media feel competitive and stressful and not at all like a “break”. Putting kindness and good news and lighthearted posts out into the social sphere feels like giving a gift and doesn’t generate any stress or anxiety.

Social media is recreational. It’s supposed to be a positive experience, it’s supposed to feel good. It provides people with a break from their hectic lives and opens up a chance to have fun and give or take a smile. Beyond that, social media has an even greater power when it’s not used for negativity.

 

The Larger Scale

Without needing a passport, users can travel the world. Social media doesn’t require a pass through customs or a long flight. It doesn’t require exhausted research and years of study. With social media, users can connect to their communities, their culture, and the world.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

For one, there’s opportunity to learn about people from all over the world and connect with people from different walks of life even in one’s own community. There’s plenty to learn and plenty of people to engage with. This openness to other cultures and experiences breeds empathy and understanding, plus offers a type of education that can’t be obtained in traditional schools. 

Social media also offers a way to contribute to the world in various ways. People can share information to spread the word about things that are worth talking about, they can launch campaigns to get people involved in local and international problems and put efforts forward to take action to solve those problems, and they can contribute to charities and funding projects that are meaningful.

On an individual basis, people may not be changing the world by way of social media. But for those who recognize these amazing opportunities that social media presents them with, the combined efforts pack a punch. Petitions from social media have turned to law, they’ve prompted action, they’ve made real change in the world. Fundraisers have helped everything from an individual recovering from a medical procedure and dealing with the financial fallout from it, to helping bring much needed resources to underprivileged societies. The reach is literally global.

The ball is in the user’s court, every user. The world is within reach, but how will the opportunity be seized? Often times, comments on popular posts show the clash between users of different backgrounds. But that negativity gives a lasting impression that spreads. If people take this opportunity to engage and learn and spread kindness, the world becomes a more productive and more friendly place.

 

Kindness Doesn’t Work Alone

Lucky for the users who believe in kindness and using social media for friendliness and positivity, they’re not alone. Tech gurus behind platforms like Twitter and Facebook are aware of the trends behind their services, and they’re paying attention.

For example, Facebook conducted a study in 2013 that analyzed over three million posts. They separated the posts by whether the content was positive, negative, or neutral. What they found was exactly what was covered above: when people see positive posts, they post more positive things. In other words, negativity breeds negativity, and positivity breeds positivity. Positivity also leads people to be more active on Facebook, and to engage more with their friends. 

Twitter, on the other hand, found that their algorithm is being taken advantage of with negative posts. Twitter works by showing users posts that it thinks users will want to see the most, and these posts are ones that have been engaged with the most with replies, retweets, and favorites. However, as any user on Twitter can attest to- Twitter users like to argue and are likely to engage with something that they disagree with. This results in negative and controversial posts, even if they contain misinformation, to be projected to a wider user base (even if the truth is more positive).

The fact that Twitter and Facebook are using resources to look into how their users are using their social media platforms, and how their algorithms for the media feeds affects the user’s experience, is good news.  It means that these tech giants are paying attention. Presumably, they want users to have a more positive experience. If positive experiences result in more activity, it stands to reason that they’ll do whatever they can to make their platforms more friendly, less toxic places for users to be.

It’s understandable that associating kindness and positivity with social media isn’t always an easy connection to draw. After all, social media breeds trolls, harassment opportunities, and even negativity from people that matter. It’s easy to get lost in this labyrinth of negativity, and many often do.

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

How can you make social media a kinder place for yourself?

  1. If you see a post you don’t like, stop yourself and think before responding. Ask yourself if your reply to this post is going to make the difference you want it to. Will your opinion change their minds, or just start an argument? Will a sarcastic reply make a valid point, or just make somebody feel bad? Will you contribute to negativity? Then, ask yourself if that’s how you want yourself to be portrayed to the world.

  2. If you’re in a difficult situation, find the high road and take it. Engaging in negativity won’t create a positive result for either participant. It’s best to end the conversation on a high note and walk away.

  3. Consciously put kindness into the world. Offer genuine compliments when you see the opportunity, congratulate somebody on a new life event, send an old friend a random message and let them know you’re thinking of them. Before you post or comment, always ask yourself first, “does this contribute to a kinder world?”

  4. Think of how others see you. Sure, you might have had a bad day and wanted to blow of steam by trash talking some stranger on a random post. But people don’t see that context. They only see the comment. This is an impression that they’ll hold on to. It’s good to make sure you have control over the impression you want to give to others.

Kindness and empathy are things that are often missing from today’s social media world. While social media has largely become a negative place, it still provides an opportunity for each and every user to put kindness into their own world and the world around them.

 

Image source: Flickr