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“Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop, and it’s time for an intervention…”

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I was clicking around last night before turning in, as many of us do, and I came across a blog post that contained a plea to end cyberbullying and a reference to a TED Talks in Vancouver in March titled Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame.  It opened with this,

“As TED’s social media editor, I have seen a lot of nasty comments. I’ve seen grown men and women deride a 14-year-old girl for her choice of dress. I’ve seen them say they’re revolted by a beautiful transgender woman. On every talk about race, I’ve seen a slew of racist comments. But none have ever been as bad as the comments we got when we published Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk, The Price of Shame. At least at first.”

I remembered that time in our history when a young girl was vilified at the hand of voyeurism in the name of national security.  I can guarantee that my thoughts on this today are very different from what they were at the time.  I didn’t understand fully the implications of public shaming or even recognize it for what it was then.   The 1990’s brought the internet mainstream and the birth of instant updates, for good and for evil.  I read the post with interest and thought the message was a good one, I recommended it on my Facebook timeline with the disclaimer that I hadn’t watched the talk yet.

I watched the TED Talk today.  And I cried.  Take a look:  

From the transcript:

Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop, and it’s time for an intervention on the Internet and in our culture.  The shift begins with something simple, but it’s not easy. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion — compassion and empathy. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit, an empathy crisis.”

Ms. Lewinsky continues:  “Researcher Brené Brown said, and I quote, “Shame can’t survive empathy.” Shame cannot survive empathy. I’ve seen some very dark days in my life, and it was the compassion and empathy from my family, friends, professionals, and sometimes even strangers that saved me. Even empathy from one person can make a difference. The theory of minority influence, proposed by social psychologist Serge Moscovici, says that even in small numbers, when there’s consistency over time, change can happen. In the online world, we can foster minority influence by becoming upstanders. To become an upstander means instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation. Trust me, compassionate comments help abate the negativity. “

The talk ends with, We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression… Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”

It is an important talk and perhaps one that I would not have come across had it not been for those spewing enough hate to spur TED to start a campaign within a campaign to end cyber bullying.  So I’m doing my part here and now by sharing.  My call to action:  Please share this message and start a conversation today.

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