It has been just over two weeks since our #nicenominate campaign began.
In collaboration with Student Minds and University of Leicester FemSoc, Sexpression Leicester have been promoting self-esteem for Eating Disorders Awareness Week and Good Deed Day (March 9th) and needless to say: our journey has been interesting.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The #NEKnominate campaign had much more going for it: fun, frivolity and drama. Our campaign challenging people to say one nice thing about a fellow human being in full view of other human beings was seemingly a far greater challenge than to drink a pint of wine.
It started small, with one of the founders tagging a video with three close friends. As fellow campaigners, the three tagged found it easy to do and the videos were truly heart-warming. Comments received on these videos were overwhelmingly positive:
“Thank you xxx you made me cry happy tears xxx”
“After the awful day I’ve had this has just set me off crying big style! I LOVE YOU DEAD LOADS xxx””
“Thank you sweetheart, you make me so proud, I’m glad you’re my little sister”
“This is soooooo lovely! You just made my week!!”
It’s not easy to open up and say what you really feel, as most people perhaps learned in the primary school playground. Baring your soul on the internet for all to see is daunting, you feel somewhat vulnerable as likes and comments start to roll in. Yet something I wasn’t prepared to see was the light-hearted ‘banter’ that appeared, particularly in response to videos posted by men.
“Gay” one commenter writes, followed by a second “gay” only a few hours later. He explains, “First gay was about the video, second gay was for saying you love me”. The video’s owner responds with “[are] you saying it’s gay to be nice to people?” and in response the commenter replies “to say you love me is [gay]”
An interesting choice of word, supposedly this refers to the notion that 'gay' people are more openly compassionate with members of the same sex, specifically men with men. Though I can't help feeling the connotations of 'gay' people not fitting in or conforming to what society sees as normal, which is an outdated and homophobic perception.
This brings me to the fundamental question: when did it become socially acceptable to drink a pint of gin mixed with your own urine and three goldfish whilst dressed in your underwear, yet not to verbalise our admiration of our best friends?
At the root of both campaigns lies self-worth. One endorses dangerous stunts and out-of-character ridiculousness in return for a feeling of ‘fitting in’, friendship and social acceptance. The other promotes public appreciation of our closest friends; simple appreciation of their very being, exactly who they are, their finest qualities and natural appearance. Every one of us relies on the feeling of being worth something, to ourselves or to other people. Surely there lies greater worth in a single compliment from your best friend, than in 50 ‘likes’ from mere Facebook ‘friends’.
Though I’m hopeful our campaign will continue to spread goodness around the world and back, I am somewhat doubtful. Unlike the #NEKnominate campaign, it lacks the social obligation and peer pressure to ensure it gets passed on.
Anyone can drink a pint whilst dressed in their underwear, we know. We don’t need to see it again. Why not set yourself a real challenge: to change this culture of ours in which it is not acceptable to show appreciation of our closest friends. Just start by saying something nice.