Monica Lewinsky: Stepping Up, Speaking Out

Why are people so mean? The rise of incivility online is breaking barriers for all ages.

According the the latest PEW Research survey, 66 percent of adults have witnessed online harassment, while 41 percent have been victims. Further, 70% of women – and 83% of young women ages 18 to 29 – view online harassment as a major problem.

In a Civility in America report, 69% of Americans blame the Internet and social media for online cruelty and 59% of them have removed politics from their conversations to alleviate negativity from their lives as well as the hate in their news feeds.

Hiding behind the screen

Technology has not only given bullies a bigger pulpit, armed with a smartphone, the average person now has the ability to lash out at people, lacking any feelings of remorse without the eye-to-eye contact of the impact of emotional pain they are causing.

Many assume that bullies or trolls are morally bankrupt people that sit behind screens all day with nothing better to do but harm people. In reality, as online harassment researcher Lindsay Blackwell shares in Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, “We’re all equally capable,” of troll behavior. Push the right button, and there’s a nasty person lurking in each of us. This was confirmed in a later study by Stanford University.

In Real Life

If you wouldn’t say something to someone in real life, why would you say it to them online?

“Because you can!”

This is the online hate we are experiencing today. Monica Lewinsky, a leader in anti-bullying advocacy and someone that understands the pain of cyber-humiliation, has released a new video that shows what happens when online bullying is taken offline. In 2015 her TED Talk, Price of Shame resonated with over 11 million views, “There is a very personal price to public humiliation, and the growth of the Internet has jacked up that price,” she said.

Shame Nation

As we increasing witness our country slipping away into this nation of digital disgrace, Monica Lewinsky writes in the foreword of Shame Nation:

“And tragically we have come to a point where we had to coin a new word—bullycide—to describe the onslaught of suicides,especially among young people and children, resulting from bullying, particularly cyberbullying.”

She continues:

“There is painfully a sad lack of empathy and compassion in our cyberworld. People rush to make rude and (sometimes) violent commentary they would never utter in a face-to-face situation. And these insults and threats never go away. They live in the Internet ether forever, easily accessed by potential employers, potential relationships, and anyone in the mood to do a Google search.”

What can WE do?

  • Be mindful of what we post. Remember there’s a person on the other-side of the screen.
  • Learn patience. Never post in haste. The temporary emotion lives a lifetime on the Internet.
  • Empathy combats cruelty. If you see someone struggling, step-in and speak-out. It matters.
  • Click with compassion. 66 percent of Americans have asked their friends to be nicer to each other online.
  • Order Shame Nation book for more resources, advice and guidance to avoid digital disasters and read hopeful stories.
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