How about being nice in 2018? Just a thought

So, how long did your New Year resolution last? Thought so. Most of us make it through two or three weeks of drinking less, watching our weight or exercising more when the combination of our own weak natures and post-festive gloom just gets too much. Surely one little blueberry muffin can’t harm? And back go on the pounds.

But instead of beating yourself up about your failings, Centigrade would like to suggest that you’re actually rather marvellous. As a human being, you have an amazing set of skills, including a brain that puts other creatures’ cognitive skills in the shade. And perhaps the most impressive talent of all is the way we relate to others and work co-operatively to a common goal.

In a recent BBC Radio 4 series ‘Conflict and Co-operation – a History of Trade’, economist and author, Paul Seabright suggests that co-operation – our ability to share and trade tasks – is hard-wired into the human brain. For example, although chimpanzees and humans are closely related, a chimpanzee mother will never let another chimp handle her new-born. Baby chimps are a good source of protein, and it’s every chimp for themselves. In contrast, human mothers in all cultures will let others hold their new-born infant. They know that, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

We’re instinctive sharers. We’re natural traders. We achieve collectively. We call our cites ‘hives of activity’ because of the myriad individual working lives that interact there. We may go and watch movies that feature larger than life heroes, but the real world isn’t going to be saved by Superman but by everyman (and everywoman).

The internet is humanity, digitised. It has already changed our lives and work in a way that would have been unimaginable a generation back. It’s a change as big as the industrial revolution, and it’s still growing. More than 3.2 billion people now use the internet worldwide.

So we’re all affected when some use the anonymity of the internet to spread hate, or lies, or threaten others whose only crime is to think differently to them. If the ideal internet is a thriving virtual marketplace of goods and ideas where all may roam in peace, parts of it now resemble some dystopian Blade Runner-style dark alley, where you can get beaten up by a troll or mugged by a cybercriminal.

We need to fix this, before fake truths drown out the real and before debate becomes an entrenched war of verbal violence and intolerance. And we can. We’re humans, and fixing things is what we do. We can’t rely on Zuckerberg or Bezos to sort this. We need to be the change we want to see. Starting with one simple thing – cutting the other guy a bit of slack, instead of calling him an idiot from behind the cover of a digital identity.

Can we be a bit nicer in 2018? It’s worth a try. And right now, it’s a lot more appealing than a 5k run.