You know the old sayings, the ones you learned as a child and repeat through the course of your life, to yourself or to your children or grandchildren:
Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
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Fifteen-year-old Andrew Figueiredo has heard those things, too. But he hasn’t seen much evidence that people, particularly his teenage peers, truly believe or live by those words.
“I saw all these cyber-bully pages on Facebook – pages where people would bash on each other and call each other names,” said Andrew, a freshman at East High School in Wichita.
“I guess I just wanted to combat the rudeness.”
Last week Andrew launched the Wichita Compliment Page, a Facebook community page devoted to positive affirmations and old-fashioned niceties.
People can send compliments – signed or unsigned, with a photo or without – to Andrew or the other page administrators, who then post them on the page and tag the people being complimented.
In less than a week, the page had 236 likes. It started with Andrew’s friends but spread quickly.
“It was mostly East students at first, but now I’m starting to see people I don’t even know,” he said.
Here’s a sampling of the posts:
• “Winnie … is the most epic person ever and is the literal equivalent of a big mac and fries,” one recent post reads. “She is sooooooo SMART and pretty and everyone should get to know her.”
• About Isabella: “This girl is lovely in every way. An amazing friend, fun to be around, and always knows what to say when you need her. … When you meet her, you can tell she just gleams happiness.”
• About Meg: “She’s so full of energy and always happy. She makes my days brighter. … Meg doesn’t believe it, but I think she’s beautiful.”
• About Charley: “He’s like the nicest guy on earth omg. I mean, I don’t know him real well but ... he’s just so flippin nice.”
• And this one, about Andrew: “Mr. Admin Andrew is super amazing. … He’s really funny. AND he likes Arcade Fire, so he is obviously one of the smartest people ever. We should all thank him and love him forever for putting this together.”
When so much of the social media universe is negative – insults hurled, feelings hurt and reputations shattered with a couple of thoughtless thumb-clicks – the Wichita Compliment Page is an island of optimism and goodwill.
Or maybe most kids, teens and adults, when given the chance, actually prefer kindness over cruelty. Maybe the Wichita Compliment Page is a more accurate reflection of reality than all those stories of cyber-bullying and social media nightmares.
“I would like to tell people that it’s the perfect place to spread kindness and caring,” Andrew said.
Thumbs-up to that.