Some people use Twitter to argue politics. Some use it to make jokes, report news, or advance social movements. The US president has in recent weeks used it to insult foreign leaders and promote an anti-muslim extremist organization. But on Friday, more than 1,000 people used Twitter to respond to a prompt that just asked them to be nice: “Who is a person (not counting family) that opened doors for you in your career when they didn’t have to? Anytime is a good time to show gratitude!”
The full power of this call to action, which was tweeted by entrepreneur and writer Anil Dash, didn’t really hit me until someone included me in his reply. What the responder thanked me for was something I hadn’t at the time considered to be a big deal, or really considered much at all, and I was touched that he had thought of it as helpful. It made me feel great. I hadn’t planned to write my own thank-you tweet until that point, mostly because it seemed cheesy. But having had a simple Twitter mention make my day, I decided to pass it on.
Gratitude’s benefits are well-documented. It not only makes people feel good, but also has a whole range of psychological and health benefits for both the giver and recipient. Some have argued it can even save the world.
A tweet is a small gesture. It would probably be better to write personalized, detailed thank you notes to the people who have helped you. It almost certainly would be better to deliver gratitude in person. But if you’re going to make small gestures all day on social media, expressing gratitude in at least some of them is a surefire way to make them matter.