Imagine if your entire life was defined by one mistake you made at the age of 22.
Imagine your reputation being destroyed, on a global scale, instantly.
And imagine what it would be like to be almost literally humiliated to death.
In 1998, the internet was still new, and when the scandal broke online it was the first time the traditional news had been usurped by the internet for a major news story.
And Monica Lewinsky became the first victim of trolling, cyber bullying and online harassment.
She recently gave a speech on “The Price of Shame” at a TED talk in Vancouver, Canada.
She spoke about her unique experience, and she dropped some pretty serious truth-bombs about today’s cyber bullying culture before calling for more “compassion and empathy” online.
In 1998, after having been swept up into an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of as political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before…Overnight I went from a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one, worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously. The attention and judgement that I received…was unprecedented. I was branded as a tramp. Tart. Slut. Whore. Bimbo. And of course, “that woman”… It was easy to forget that “that woman” was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.
After hearing about US teen Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his college room-mate uploaded a video of him kissing another man, Lewinsky decided it was time to speak up about online bullying.
Cruelty to others is nothing new, but online, technologically-enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained and permanently accessible. Millions of people can stab you with their words. And that’s a lot of pain.
To be honest, I’ve never been Team Monica before. But after hearing her speech and listening to what she went through first-hand, I’m 100 per cent behind her.
Because the viciousness of internet bullies needs to be reined in.
Because no more lives should be lost due to online harassment.
And because as Lewinsky herself said, “public shaming as a blood sport has to stop.”
Here is her speech in its entirety: