Every now and then, I come across an issue that fascinates me to the point I eat up whatever information is available. Lately, it’s been the narrative “that girl” Monica Lewinsky is forging – ending public humiliation as a bloodsport online.
Recently she gave a very powerful TED Talk that was accompanied by an article in the New York Times. This reaquainted me with her very well-written piece in Vanity Fair published last May. Think whatever you want about her, but her goal is clear. She’s determined to show people the cost of cyber-bullying while showing victims they can survive it.
If you haven’t read the articles or watched the TED Talk, then I strongly encourage you check them out.
What I like the most about the packaging of her message is it addresses the desensitizing of human empathy the internet and technology creates.
I remember experiencing this first hand while working as a web content producer for a news outlet in Chicago. I had misspelled a word in an article I wrote and posted to Facebook. In my defense, working 16 hour shifts where you’re writing non-stop makes it hard to produce grammatically correct articles 24/7. I was OK with that and usually avoided the comments, but man could the audience be brutal when I did have to read them! Most of the time I knew there would be a mistake if I had more than 20 comments in the first 5 minutes with no likes. The attacks would be personal – I was idiot. I should be fired. Silly stuff like that.
However, one time a female facebook fan proceeded to write a scathingly long comment about how I was a “dumbass” not fit to report the news, her 5th grade daughter was a better writer, and blah, blah, blah. I actually started crying because I was at a point where I was seriously contemplating if I was cut out for news. I remember calling John and crying to him over the phone. He then went on to Facebook to find the comment, clicked a few times and then started laughing hysterically.
“This isn’t funny John,” I cried over the phone while trying to make sure no one in the newsroom saw or heard me balling.
“I’m sorry Kiddo, I’m not laughing at you though,” John said. “Have you clicked on the woman’s profile? I really think you should.”
I humored him and clicked on the link to her profile. My jaw dropped and the tears in my eyes dried up. The woman’s cover photo, and I’m not making this up, read : “Cyber-bullying is a crime. Stop Cyber-bullying.” This woman was not even aware of the hypocrisy she had just committed. I felt better instantly, but a concern began to grow – the internet was becoming a cesspool for the mean side of humanity.
In March, Buzzfeed published a profile piece on two young adults who went to prison for cyber-bullying along with their experiences. The two, who had no relation whatsoever, both tweeted death and rape threats to Caroline Criado-Perez. Aside from the foul tweets they sent, the other shocking part of this article are their reasons for sending the tweets in the first place. Neither really had knowledge of what was going on or who Ms. Criado-Perez was. They happened to see she was trending on Twitter and wanted to join in on the commenting for attention. Their comments got the attention, however it came at a very high price.
It’s scary to think how easy it is to type words and disconnect from the fact there’s a living person on the receiving end. Admittedly, it’s easier for me to say what I really want when I don’t think about a live person on the receiving end or some idea of an idiot on the other side of the device (computer, phone, iPad, etc.). Instead of someone with feelings and as fragile as I am. Or, like Monica said in her TED Talk, “someone with a soul.”
You can think what you want about Ms. Lewinsky, but realize that if you decide to go after her for her past and believe she’s not entitled to stand up for herself then you’re pretty much taking an anti cyber-bullying stance when you think about it. And that is what I find so incredibly fascinating about this, all the hypocrites are revealed.