“The Nicest Place on the Internet” is a collaborative project of art directors, Lauren Perlow and Jeff Lam. Perlow shares on her website, “none of the usual methods seemed to be working. Not music. Not food. Not office puppies. What we craved was something honest and good, unhappiness-offsetting, fail-proof and grin-inducing. So armed with a tripod, camera and a free weekend, we created The Nicest Place on the Internet.”
For something that has taken the web by storm, the concept is rather simple. Upon reaching the website, viewers are treated to videos of well-meaning strangers from all over the world reaching out from behind the screen to share a hug and a heartwarming smile all while set to music that tells you, “you’re okay.” In response, viewers are encouraged to pay it forward by recording their own hugs and uploading them for all the world to see.
Apart from the pretty music and affirmative gestures, the novelty and success of the website lies in the act of sharing an intimate moment in an otherwise very impersonal setting.
It is a well known fact that the widespread access and use of the internet is progressively changing the way we as a society interact with each other. It is often argued that our increasing reliance on mobile technologies has relegated much of our social lives to electronic interaction. In addition, the impersonality and anonymity afforded by the internet has inadvertently incited cyber bullying and other forms of inflammatory behavior.
What The Nicest Place does is that it takes that same anonymity and impersonality and turns it into something positive. It’s this one little slice of the internet that’s over-pouring with acceptance and affirmation. The project kindles a sense of community and belonging.
The Nicest Place on the internet is a powerful reminder of the importance of solidarity. The countless number of people who have freely sent their goodwill make manifest our unique human capacity to identify with and feel for other people. It is that openness to give and receive that makes this a successful effort in showing our solidarity.
This kind of empathy and solidarity is only possible in a context where the intrinsic and inviolable dignity of a person is recognized. It is by acknowledging and accepting accountability for each other that we can foster lasting peace. The Nicest Place on the Internet shows that with an unconditional exchange of love and kindness, this peace is indeed possible. Surely, if we can commit to these principles in our daily lives, we will be closer to making this world a better place.
Mike Pelobello is an intern at the World Youth Alliance Headquarters in New York.