Viral TikTok creator and ‘After Hours with Amanda’ podcast host Amanda Bouldin shared how to practice empathy in the social media age and find the good in 2020 on ‘Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn.’
It all started with a video in her bathroom after the Golden Globes. Amanda Bouldin, a mom of three daughters from California, was relatively new to TikTok. She’d only been on the app for a few months, but when she watched Michelle Williams’ Golden Globes speech in January encouraging women to vote for candidates who represent them, she felt implored to speak up.
“I think it’s great. I have three little girls; I’m all about female empowerment,” she said in the video. “But you know where you need to start? You need to start at home.”
Bouldin went on in the video to discuss a topic that’s so often missing from social media: kindness.
“I went into my bathroom and ranted about how my daughter London had had this interaction, which was just really sad for me because, in a time when women are supposed to be so uplifting of each other, and we fight for all these different things that matter to us, we’re actually not fighting for each other a lot,” she explained on Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn. “We’re fighting each other, and it starts really young, and it just struck a chord with me.”
That video struck a chord for many, garnering over six million views on TikTok. Now, with more than a million followers on her “After Hours with Amanda” account, Bouldin uses her platform on TikTok and her podcast to spread the message of kindness and empathy through parenting advice, personal anecdotes, and lessons on how we can better communicate with each other.
A message people need
Part of Bouldin’s success on social media can be attributed to her wide-reaching message. Though most of her stories and advice are delivered through the lens of a parent, her following includes young adults who don’t yet have children, as well as kids themselves who are seeking out her content.
“Honestly, at first I was surprised, but my heart was a little bit sad because I was like, can I just hug everybody?” Bouldin said of the kids who follow her. “Because the reason I think that they were watching me was because it was validating, and in a very deep mom way, it made me sad because I want them to feel validated.”
“It made me want to share even more so that they can come to a place that feels safe,” she continued. “One of my favorite comments is when people say that my content makes them feel safe because I know in a time when so many people are corner in teens and maybe not in their favorite spot, I want them to have a place to retreat to.”
Social media and empathy
Bouldin is a light for many in what can often be the dark vacuum of social media. Upon watching one of her videos and being imbued with some of her wisdom, you might think she’s a licensed therapist, but that’s not the case. Bouldin has a degree in interpersonal and organizational communication, and most of her advice comes from personal hardships and experiences.
“When I lost my mom nine years ago, I looked at my husband, and I was like, ‘It all doesn’t matter,” she said. “At the end of the day, everybody dies, and the only thing you have is how you made people feel.”
That perspective has led Bouldin to walk out her everyday life with empathy always in mind.
“It became very important to me to try to honestly, mindfully stop myself in situations where I could react or be irritated and just say, ‘What is the cost value of all this?’” she said. “Am I stressing myself out? Is what I’m going to do benefiting someone else, or does this, in the wide scope of things, actually matter? Can I do something better in this situation?”
Bouldin also says before reacting, she reminds herself why someone may be saying or doing something negative in the first place.
“Someone’s opinion is framed by their personal experience and what they may have endured, and so everything they view is through that lens,” she said. “No two experiences are the same. Just like when you get married, it is a wedding, but I don’t know one wedding or two weddings that were one hundred percent the same down to the wire”.
“And so when we look at the world and when we look at parenting, or we look at other people, being able to separate it and not make it so egocentric like, ‘Oh, it’s all about me. They’re judging me,’” Bouldin explained. “No; they’re projecting their experience through their lens of life.”
Finding the good
These are all lessons Bouldin herself has to keep in mind as she puts herself out on social media, welcoming herself to public criticism.
“There have been a couple comments that I’ve read that it’s just like a gut punch. It takes the wind out of you,” she said.
When the criticism does come, Bouldin turns to her husband and close friends.
“They will literally say to me, ‘Okay, but Amanda, does that person know you? Is that true? Is that actually true for you?’” she said. “And I’ll say ‘No.’ And they’re like, ‘If it’s not your truth, then you know it’s okay.’ And I can walk away knowing that they don’t know me in that one minute clip to eclipse who I am as a person.”
Despite negative comments and news constantly circulating social media, Bouldin continues to choose to see the best in people.
“My dad used to say, ‘When you dig for dirt, you will find it, but you have to mine for gold,” she said. “We get what we look for. If I’m looking to be divisive, it takes me one second to find it. It’s more effort to try and look for something positive.”
As she looks for the good in others, Bouldin also tries to create content that is good and uplifting.
“I think that if you think of the world right now, people need it,” she said. “There’s such a need for it not just from a life standpoint, but from a mental health standpoint. With all of us quarantining and doing other things, you want to be putting things out there that bring people joy.”
Of course, Bouldin knows it’s easier said than done to simply look for the good, and encourages people to take it day at a time.
“If you’re here and you’ve kept making it through every day of quarantine and every day of 2020, and you’ve continued to overcome every day that you’re here, and you’re navigating, then you’re literally on your way,” she said. “There is nothing that you cannot conquer if you’re already conquering this year, because it’s so hard. And if you feel like you’re not conquering it, there’s no shame in that because everybody feels like they’re not; we all feel like we’re somehow out.”
“It’s okay to have a good moment and a bad moment in the next,” she continued. “It’s not a glass half empty or glass half full–it’s refillable. And the minute we start to understand that we can refill it even when it gets low, and that it’s okay if it gets low because it is refillable, I think it kind of gives us that freedom.”