In the Psychology Today article “Can an App Really Spread Kindness? Meet Kindr”, published last October, Pamela Rutledge, PhD, discussed the app Kindr, introduced in September and designed to spread kindness through compliments.

The app was created in honour of National Bullying Prevention Month, for which the creators came up with the idea of the Kindr pledge. The creators believe that people have the ability to end bullying if they work together. According to them, “It takes commitment from each and every one of us to use our words and actions to lift up our friends, coworkers, family, and neighbours—and then encourage them to do the same.”

The idea is simple—you download the free app, hand over your phone number and email address so they can access your contacts, and start spreading random compliments to people in your address book. The compliments range from the simple “You are generous” to the more elaborate “In a loveableness competition between you and SpongeBob, you just might win”. The sender is awarded with kind points for every compliment they send, gradually earning balloons of various colours in the app (I’m only 10 points away from the tie-dye balloon).

Rutledge brought up a valid point in her article; she expressed the concern that “canned compliments in this ‘age of authenticity’, however well intentioned, would feel like empty Hallmark platitudes”.

Kindr, she added, “comes with some surprisingly clever compliments. However, among a group of friends who know about the app, I think it could get a lot of play […] but the real power is in being appreciated by someone you know. The payoff comes in the neural response of increased dopamine and oxytocin so you not only feel happier, you also feel more connected.”

UTM students had some mixed feelings about the app and the message behind it.

Patrick Callaghan, a third-year student majoring in chemistry and biology, hasn’t heard of the app. “I probably wouldn’t take the time out of my day to send random compliments to my friends, especially since most of them are guys. I don’t even send random compliments to my girlfriend,” he says. “I think it’s a nice idea, but I would rather get compliments in person from someone over a compliment that was probably sent to, like, everyone in their inbox.”

Afareen Mazandarani, a first-year CCIT major, says that she would consider getting the app, and disagreed with Callaghan. “My friends and I don’t really compliment one another as often as we should, maybe. Maybe it would be easier if they didn’t have to see the other person,” she says. “I would find it easier if I could send a compliment to one friend and then another different one to another friend.”

Erin Aherne, a fourth-year English specialist, was the only interviewee who had heard of and downloaded the app. “I love this app! I forced all my friends into getting it,” she laughs. “I think it’s so nice to get hilarious and ridiculous compliments from my friends. I think it’s great what [the founders] are doing. I don’t know if this will necessarily stop the bullying going around, but I do think this is a good way to brighten your day.”

The app also provides users with the opportunity to create custom compliments for particular contacts and provide users with “good news”. The stories include some about how puppies keep warm in the winter, a teen that is spending a year outside to help homeless people, and a grandmother who started a fashion line for those with Down syndrome.

On their website, Kindr gives visitors the opportunity to sign a pledge online that states, “I pledge to spend a few minutes of every day making someone’s life better through my kind words and/or acts. I’m also actively promoting an end to bullying by setting a good example both on and offline.” The pledge concludes by saying the signer will spread the word to their friends and family about the Kindr mission and ask them to get the app.

Rutledge stands by Kindr and its creators. She concludes her article by saying, “Information on the social net is permanent, searchable, and uncontrollable. It’s one of the reasons why we worry about the potential damage of cyber bullying. It’s also why efforts to exploit the happy side can make a big difference.”