Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Student Fights Bullying with Positivity

November 1, 2012
Photo credit: homini via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Editor's Note: Although Kevin Curwick graduated from Osseo Senior High, the Twitter project he started continues to be a source of inspiration from current students. In this post, written when Curwick was a senior, he highlights why he started sending positive tweets to fellow classmates. (Updated 11/2013)

As simple as any introduction, my name is Kevin Curwick, and I am currently a senior at Osseo Senior High in Osseo, Minnesota -- a suburb of the Twin Cities. I have always been involved in my school and, just like many students, I strive to make a difference. I have recently been able to achieve a significant change that has already produced encouraging results.

Maintaining school spirit and a tradition of unity are at the top of every student's priorities at Osseo, and we protect these things at all costs. However, this past summer, Osseo's true social environment was challenged by multiple anonymous Twitter accounts created to destroy students' reputations and demoralize them on a daily basis. I felt that these accounts disrespected the positive spirit that defines Osseo, and I decided to combat this with a unique approach. Instead of fighting the bullying with verbal negativity and providing these faceless bullies with more attention, I decided to use what I saw at Osseo every day: positivity. I established my own anonymous Twitter account, @OsseoNiceThings, to highlight the positive side of the students who were being bullied.

Within a few weeks of starting my Twitter account and trying to get fellow students to follow and retweet my anonymous tweets, I received a direct message from someone who identified himself as a reporter for a local news station. He indicated that he was investigating the emergence of the anonymous Twitter accounts that were sending out nasty, hateful comments about high school students in the Twin Cities area when he came across my account. After I explained my motives, he asked if I would be willing to be interviewed on camera the following day. I told him that I really wanted to remain anonymous because I felt my efforts might work better that way, and I was a bit afraid of how my peers would react to what I was doing. He convinced me to come forward by explaining that he was already finding similar accounts cropping up in other nearby communities, and many indicated they had been inspired by the @OsseoNiceThings account.

I was interviewed during football practice the following day, which also happened to be the day I was named one of the team's captains. The story ran on the 6 o'clock news and then again at 10 PM and the following morning. Of course, the day after the story ran, I had the opportunity to enjoy a bit of celebrity, but I expected things to get back to normal after that. As it turned out, the story was picked up by the Huffington Post and USA Today, and it remained on the local news station's website as one of their most popular stories. I had four more interviews the next day, including one by Ryan Seacrest for his national radio program. The story quickly became one of the top 100 stories linked to on the Huffington Post, and the local news station came back for a follow-up interview on how this whole thing suddenly went viral on the Internet. My account was mentioned by Selena Gomez and SI Swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker on their Twitter accounts, and the hashtags #NiceThings and #NiceItForward began to trend worldwide on Twitter. I started receiving calls to appear on the NBC Today Show, CNN and even a few calls from producers of the Ellen Show. My Twitter followers went from around 120 to well over 4,000. I've received tweets about @OsseoNiceThings from places such as Greece, Australia, Argentina, Croatia and many more. One of the more encouraging responses has been through the continuation of "Nice Things" on Twitter. There are now over 50 "Nice" accounts on Twitter, and that number is growing every week. From junior highs to high schools to colleges, these accounts have been effective in spreading the positivity.

Fortunately, @OsseoNiceThings became an outlet for others to value the importance of being positive not just online, but also at school. I have noticed that people are becoming more positive towards one another in person. This trend is evident in the student activity I see on the @OsseoNiceThings account. Originally, I was the only one composing the compliments, but eventually I would get up to five direct messages a day requesting a post about anyone from one of their best friends to a complete stranger. For instance, one tweet states, "He may have a small body, but the man's got a huge heart. You can always find the guy making someone's day better. Charlie Pundzus." This post was sent in by a senior who had noticed a junior making a difference in people's days. Another tweet praised a student's love for Harry Potter, and another for being a great brother. However simple, being kind and positive is a goal we should strive to attain in our daily lives. @OsseoNiceThings and its response provide evidence as to how a simple effort can make a significant impact.

I recently saw this tweet to @OsseoNiceThings from another "nice" account: "Being nice is actually fun!" Well, I am proud to say that, more than just being fun, being nice at Osseo Senior High has become a popular attitude.

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Filed Under

  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Bullying Prevention
  • Media Literacy
  • 9-12 High School

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