This guest post by CiviliNation advisor Sue Scheff features a Q&A with Kindr founder Matt Ivester. It’s a fascinating read, cross-posted from Sue’s personal blog, that talks about how Ivester’s past experiences with online attacks helped shape the direction he’s taking today.
Recently I was asked to interview Matt Ivester, the creator of the now defunct site JuicyCampus.com, a site that was a stomping ground for online haters and bullies. Thankfully, years later he’s turned things around by making a positive difference in the lives of students online.
Matt, who is also the author of the bestselling book lol…OMG!, explains why he changed course and is now focused on making a positive difference through projects such as his new Kindr app.
1. What is Kindr, and what inspired its creation?
Kindr is an iPhone app that makes it fun and easy to send compliments to friends and family. The compliments range from range from hilarious to light-hearted to sentimental. “You’d have a real shot at winning America’s Next Top Instagrammer, if that were a thing,” and “You always pick the best songs when riding shotgun” are two of my personal favorites. Also, through a partnership with the Huffington Post, the app also provides a “Good News” feed featuring the inspiring acts of kindness that take place all over the world.
The inspiration for Kindr really came from thinking about cyberbullying, and asking ourselves “What’s the opposite of cyberbullying?” We think the answer is kindness, and we’re excited about using the same technology that has enabled cyberbullying to become so pervasive to now make kindness go viral.
2. Your press release describes Kindr as “a technology company dedicated to making the world a kinder place.” Creating a kinder world is a very ambitious goal. Aside from creating the app, how do you envision making that happen?
At this point, we’re not sure what will come after the app. But our work with the app is far from over. Building version one was the easy part. In order to actually achieve our goal of making the world a kinder place, we’ve got to get a lot of people using the app. We’ve got to get feedback from our users about what aspects they like and which could be better. We’ve got to make it work outside the US. And we’ve got to make it super viral. We’ve had tens of thousands of compliments sent in just the first couple weeks here, but we want millions. So for now we’re going to keep fine tuning it, listening to our users, and thinking up new ways to facilitate kindness through the app.
3. Increasing kindness online is obviously important to you. Some would say that compassion is even more important. Do kindness and compassion mean the same thing to you?
Kindness and compassion are certainly closely related, but to me they aren’t the same. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others, understand that we all fall short sometimes, and that bad things can happen to good people. Compassion is the emotion we feel when we see someone who needs our help. Kindness is the action part that follows compassion – it’s what we do in reaction to that emotion.
That said, I’m a big believer in everyday kindness. We don’t need a reason to be kind. Sometimes the best kindness is kindness for its own sake. There’s a great video called This is Water, which is derived from a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace. You’d have to watch it to really understand, but basically, it likens fish swimming in water to us living our lives. It points out that our “water” is made up of all the everyday situations we encounter like grocery shopping, waiting in line, driving in traffic, etc. Kindr isn’t about any particular event, group of people, or period of time, that triggers compassion in us and leads to kindness. Instead, it’s about making every day better – to make the water a little more enjoyable to swim in.
4. Kindr is currently an iPhone app. Will you be creating a version for other platforms as well?
We would love to have an Android app (and Blackberry and Windows apps, too). But with such a small team it just wasn’t feasible for launch. It would be great if some big company heard about Kindr and offered some help to get us up on those platforms. Barring that though, it will probably be a few months before we are available on any other platforms. It’s definitely a high priority for us, and in the meantime, everyone can always read the compliments sent to them, regardless of platform.
5. You wrote the book lol…OMG! What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship, and Cyberbullying. The book has been out for about a year now. What are the top things students have told you they’re glad you taught them about online behavior?
Over the past few months I’ve spoken at quite a few high schools, and having the opportunity to hear directly from students has been really interesting. Recently, they’ve been asking a lot of questions about Snapchat, and many are surprised when I explain how easy it is to save the snaps they send to friends (either through a picture by a second phone, or with apps like Snap Save). It definitely makes them think twice before using Snapchat to send provocative pictures.
The other thing that a lot of students appreciate knowing (before it’s too late) is that college admissions officers are increasingly using the Internet to find additional information about applicants. The latest survey by Kaplan says that 27% of admissions officers have Googled an applicant to get additional information. It really drives home the importance of being what I call “conscious content creators” and actively managing their online reputations.
6. A few years back you created JuicyCampus.com, which you described in your book as “the biggest college gossip website in the country) (first paragraph in Preface). Online gossip sites are often cesspools of attacking and demeaning behavior, some of them via the content they directly post, others via the comments, and frequently a combination of the two. JuicyCampus.com had its own share of well-publicized problems. How did JuicyCampus.com’s failings inspire you to join the anti-bullying movement?
I talk about JuicyCampus in terms of my own personal “lol…OMG!” experience. I started it thinking it would be fun and funny (lol), only to realize later that it had unanticipated negative consequences (OMG!). I was young, and the social Internet was still relatively new, so when I started the site I just didn’t understand how fundamentally different online gossip was compared to offline because of the permanence, immediacy and incredible reach of the Internet.
Running JuicyCampus forced me to confront issues of cyberbullying before the term “cyberbullying” was even in our vernacular. I’m glad that I have been able to take what was such a negative experience for so many people and turn it into something positive, first with my book and now with Kindr.