MADISON, Wis. - A New Lisbon woman is addressing bullying in the cyber world, and the effects are far-reaching, blossoming into a kindness movement quickly gaining momentum.
Anyone who's scrolled through Facebook knows how negative the news feed can be.
"I think we are more living online than out in the world," Melissa Bischoff said. "We're more comfortable to be bullies."
"When you get into politics, religion, anything," Wendy Babcock said.
"It really hurts," Sue-Z Schwab said. "Put out the fire before it gets too bad."
When bullying takes over, why not drown it out?
"I say, kill them with kindness," Schwab said.
"The bucket brigade (drowns) out the hate and the meanness," Babcock said.
This August, Babcock dove into the concept, starting the Kindness Bucket Brigade group on Facebook and inviting members to wash out hateful comments.
"They would leave a kind comment, tag in another member, creating that bucket brigade," she said. "My expectation was 100 people. That was blown out of the water the first day."
With 4,100 members from all over and counting, the group is making unexpected waves.
"One of my moderators said her physician physically noticed an elevated mood when she walked in the door," Babcock said. "They asked, ‘What did you do?' She said, ‘It's this group!'"
Babcock points to the dozens of positive posts in the group daily taking over news feeds.
"I think people are craving kindness," she said.
Beyond addressing bullying online, group members report they're taking kindness out into the real world, like opening doors for people, tipping more when they get bad service, and even offering to donate a kidney.
"Kindness is basically going viral," Schwab said.
Schwab was raised in foster care and is a foster care parent herself, and said she's had plenty of experience with bullying. As a member of the group, she's happy to see kindness catching on.
"It's free, and it only takes a moment, but that moment might have taken somebody's terrible day and made it a wonderful day," Schwab said.
Bischoff, another member, keeps her mother, who died by suicide, in the back of her mind as she spreads kindness online.
"I want to make the world a better place in her memory, knowing that had it been there when she was here, she might still be here."
From its humble start as a drop in the bucket, the group is watching the beauty of kindness ripple out into life beyond the screen.
"It really does prove that we can change the world," Bischoff said.
"It's amazing what a little bit of kindness can do for people," Babcock said.
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