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Group drops the ‘love bomb’

Many have turned to social media in times of need, and the feedback from friends often helps them move forward. Imagine the impact that 500 encouraging comments could have on someone in his or her darkest hour.

Lauren Lankford, a third-year in human development and family sciences, coordinates such efforts, or “love bombs,” through the website dropalovebomb.com.

Lankford posts a “bombing mission” every Thursday to roughly 2,000 active participants, who then swarm a target’s blog with hope and encouragement.

For these missions, Lankford posts a link to a blogger who is experiencing a difficult life situation, along with a brief summary of what they are going through, and then encourages the community to offer as much “support and love” as possible.

Most of the missions generate approximately 300 comments, Lankford said.

“If you’re aiming to change the world, that’s not something tangible, it’s a concept,” she said. “It’s people that make up the world, so if you can change a life, you change the world.”

Previous missions have targeted bloggers who have lost family members, been diagnosed with breast cancer or suffer from eating disorders. A recent mission targeted the entire Chicago Fire Department after it lost a member in the line of duty.

Laura Lawson, a 23-year-old writer and artist from the San Francisco Bay area, was sitting in a summer class when she discovered 47 unread messages in her e-mail, each informing her of a new post on her blog.

Lawson has retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that decreases her vision and could lead to blindness. After writing a post for her blog, “Believing is Seeing,” that discussed coming to terms with the condition, Lawson was flooded with more than 180 comments from the Love Bomb community.

“I was beyond confused, shocked and, most of all, felt incredibly loved,” Lawson said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “As I sat there reading, more and more comments flooded in. Tears formed. I was stunned.”

Lawson said that she started the blog as a way to vent her frustrations with the disease but would later come to use it as a way to “spread seeds of hope” for others with the condition.

The Web is too often used to spread negativity, Lankford said, but Love Bomb site aims to change that.

“It’s somehow become totally acceptable in this generation to treat people like crap,” Lankford said. “There’s people on the other side that want to speak love into someone’s life just as much and even more than there are people who want to speak hate.”

Bria Skalsky is a Minnesota-based blogger who was the target of a love bombing. While at work, her Blackberry started “going off like crazy,” she said, as she received hundreds of messages from Love Bomb members who had left comments in response to her struggles with anxiety and depression.

“I cried for two days straight,” Skalsky said in an e-mail with The Lantern. “Here I was, falling apart, and these people had all taken the time to show me that they cared. Just knowing that there are 341 strangers out there who took time out of their (lives) to let me know that it can and will get better gave me hope.”

Love Bomb is part of ItStartsWith.Us, a website and organization run by Nate St. Pierre. He came up with the Love Bomb idea after the website’s weekly “15-minute mission” model proved successful “in engaging people to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said in an e-mail to The Lantern.

These 15-minute missions are similar to Love Bomb, and the missions can include something as simple as spending time with your family, Lankford explained.

St. Pierre soon passed Love Bomb to Lankford, who helped the site grow by partnering with other online communities.

He discussed how the website joined “Operation Beautiful,” a group “that fights negative self-image in young women,” to bomb a blogger who was dealing with an eating disorder. St. Pierre said that mission was particularly powerful, as many of the participants had been through the same ordeal as the target.

“I’m a huge introvert,” St. Pierre said. “While I really do care about people, I’m not nearly as good as she is at working with them in that way.”

Asked what she wanted people to get out of Love Bomb, Lankford had a simple answer:

“Love more than you do.”

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