Random clicks of kindness in an age of trolls

We hear about Twitter trolls and online abuse every day. But there is a movement towards altruism and joy – if you know where to look, says Rhodri Marsden

Anyone venturing online on any given day could be forgiven for expecting a virtual tidal wave of bad feeling, anger, conceit and exasperation. The links we share on social media seem to be dominated by things we find distasteful and, for some reason, require our friends to find distasteful too. Indeed, some web business models seem entirely predicated on serving up content that's guaranteed to provoke fury, recrimination and tedious argument.

But occasionally internet virals emerge that buck the trend; things so conspicuously and unexpectedly nice that they stick out like a sore thumb. Towards the end of last week Buzzfeed posted "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity", a collection of images – some well known, some less so – that depict acts of altruism and kindness. From the two Norwegian men rescuing a hapless sheep in difficulty after falling in the sea, to the bookstore sign explaining that if you "don't have money to buy books and want to read, then help yourself", we were all over these pictures like a rash; blubbing into our laptops and thankful that we'd managed to find an oasis of goodwill and decency in a desert of self-promotion and righteous indignation.

But we could always do with more of it. Two months ago, a 10-minute film called Caine's Arcade delighted millions; it's the story of a nine-year old boy, Caine Monroy, who'd built his own amusement arcade out of cardboard boxes inside his dad's car parts shop in Los Angeles. No-one ever visited Caine's Arcade, or bought the Fun Passes he'd produced to allow people to have a go at his painstakingly constructed football game. But a passing film-maker was intrigued by Caine's efforts, invited hundreds of people to visit the arcade and the subsequent global interest in the film has led to the establishment of a foundation to find and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children.

You can find other examples dotted around the web. Search for Ike Ditzenberger, a boy with Down Syndrome whose touchdown in a normally fiercely-competitive high school football clash was the result of some affectionate sportsmanship on the part of the opposing team. Canadian photographer Markus Thompson found an enthusiastic internet community willing and able to help him track down the owner of an expensive Canon camera – with photos intact – that he found while scuba diving. Last week's outrage at a video of verbal abuse meted out by children to an American school bus monitor, Karen Klein, has led to close to half a million dollars being donated to send her on holiday. The website Letters Of Note, which collates notable items of correspondence, has heartwarming examples of kindness in its Top 10 most viewed posts, including a fantastic letter of encouragement from Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi to a young cartoonist who'd sent him some of his work.

"We're constantly bombarding each other with negative news items, tales of unimaginable woe," says Letters Of Note founder Shaun Usher. "To the point where any glimmer of human niceness is devoured as if it's going out of fashion. These things do, if only for a short period, restore your faith in humanity and remind you that plenty of good occurs in the world." Mick Sheridan, an upholsterer living in Carmarthenshire, recently started a blog documenting his odd habit of placing chairs he's restored in seatless bus stops for old people to sit down on; needless to say, his blog has received far more attention than your average upholstery website.

"Over the years I've convinced myself that acts of kindness are repaid in some way," he says. "Every time I give my loyalty points to the person behind me in the supermarket queue I'm amazing how surprised they are – as though not being selfish comes as a shock. And I've always enjoyed doing small things that shock people in a tiny way."

Our hunger for online altruism hasn't gone unnoticed by companies; Coca-Cola has just launched an advert featuring footage from security cameras showing people demonstrating acts of generosity, thereby using our own kindness to sell fizzy drinks back to us. But let's gloss over such cynicism. Darwin described in The Descent Of Man how we're a profoundly caring species and while the web isn't renowned for supplying many examples to support this view, there's definitely stuff out there. You just need to know where to look.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015