Be the Change You Wish to See: 'The Kindness Movement' Is the Positive Shift Social Media Needs

Be the Change You Wish to See: 'The Kindness Movement' Is the Positive Shift Social Media Needs

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Sixteen-year-old Izzy Baker, a victim of cyberbulling, takes that quote to heart in her mission to spread the simple concept of kindness through a rapidly growing social media campaign known as the Kindness Movement.

“Over the last year, I personally experienced and witnessed a ton of bullying. If it was happening to me, it was most definitely happening to other people,” Izzy says. “I wanted to make a movement that would spread awareness, and since it’s a problem in our sport, dedicate it to our industry to make it more powerful.”

Izzy set out to make a video about kindness and what it means to be respectful to each other as a public service announcement. Based on the overwhelming submissions and responses that were received, the idea morphed into a full-fledged social media account where video clips, photos, and motivational sayings are shared with its followers.

“I’m honestly surprised at how quickly it’s gaining momentum,” Izzy says. “Once I made the account, I got 500 followers in two days, which I did not expect!”

The account has since reached more than 2,500 followers and counting.

To increase the reach of her account, Izzy sent messages to those whom she viewed as role models in the industry. The first person she reached out to was USHJA International Hunter Derby rider Hope Glynn.

“Anything, in my opinion, that is positive and sets a good example for young people in the sport – and in life in general – to be kind is something I would get behind 10 times over,” Hope says.

“In general, you see less compassion and kindness in society, which transfers into our sport,” she adds. “I do think social media breeds a culture where we communicate less with one another and see all the positives in other people's lives. I’m the first to admit that social media is a brag-fest about our families, horses, and life. I don’t put the bad things about life on it... But do they happen? Absolutely.”

Ask yourself: are you friends with barn gossip?

Fellow professional Sami Milo was also an early supporter of the Kindness Movement. She went beyond her own reach to garner video contributions from her peers, encouraged other top riders to get involved, and handed out flyers during the HITS Coachella Desert circuit.

“Everybody should be kind. It’s just common knowledge,” Sami says. “We’ve gotten so far from it – not just in the horse world – and people are so quick to judge and criticize. I hope people can use this as a tool to improve.

“I was inspired by a girl who is 16 and is taking this on, and I wanted to support it,” she adds. “I hope my kids are like that someday.”

Both Hope and Sami agreed that seeing something positive on social media feeds can be a great reminder for equestrians to rethink their daily actions.

“Follow whomever you want, but having something positive in your feed definitely will do more to remind you to stop looking at the blue ribbons and pause for a second to think about congratulating another exhibitor, patting a horse on the neck, and focusing on the real reason why we should be in the sport: to enjoy the fact that we can compete with lots of wonderful people and, most importantly, kind animals,” Hope says.

The key is converting words into actions. Hope believes it can even improve ring performance – in case riders needed more of a reason to be nice to one another. “I do believe kind people are confident people, and a confident person is more apt to do better in the ring,” she says.

At such a young age, Izzy is becoming the gold standard in treating each other with respect and kindness. A junior at Portland’s Lincoln High School, she trains with Kaitlyn Eigner of Charlton Ridge Farm and owns one horse of her own – a children’s jumper named Hipster. In between her time in the saddle and her studies, she’s actively scouting colleges (she hopes to ride on an intercollegiate team) and planning her next move with the Kindness Movement.

“The more I can expand, the better,” Izzy says. “The more awareness we receive, the more I can educate people. I want to get everyone into the mindset that, no matter what, you can always spread kindness, and it doesn’t cost money.”

Izzy Baker. Photo by Connie Kleck.

Those interested in getting involved in or contributing to the Kindness Movement can message Izzy directly on Instagram (@the_Kindness_movement_) or Facebook (@thekindnessmovement1). Izzy is encouraging users to share their own stories of kindness through video submissions, but she is also planning an audio project for those who might be camera shy.

“It’s important to realize that you never know what a small act of kindness can do for someone,” Izzy says. “You never know what someone is going through. People’s lives look so perfect on Instagram, and it’s easy to compare yourself. It’s hard for people to remember that social media is a false sense of reality. We can always use kindness.”

Read this next: Befriending the Competition: How Top Riders Get By With a Little Help From Their Friends

Feature photo by Tori Repole.