It’s been a few days since Donald Trump was named Time’s “Person of the Year”–and the internet has gone wild, of course. Well, there’s definitely one person who disagrees with Trump being on the cover, but not for the reason you’d expect.
Monica Lewinsky doesn’t think that Donald Trump should have been chosen for this annual distinction. Why? The 43-year-old wrote all about it in Vanity Fair this week. Who does she think should have gotten the cover? The internet trolls. I can’t exactly argue with her. She wrote:
“It’s been quite a year for the bullying gremlins…they sprouted and proliferated, passed a tipping point, and ran rampant across the Web.”
Lewinsky, who is now a social activist, discussed several incidents that happened in 2016, from the racist attacks against comedian Leslie Jones to the targeting of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the National Anthem. Of course, Lewinsky knows a thing or two about being fodder for bullying, and how hard it is to move on from the cruelty. Lewinsky commented on how politically-enraged trolls are the worst–and dangerous:
“The political trolls and bots overpopulated the Internet, feeding on negativity, disseminating disinformation, and becoming more vitriolic as November 8 approached. The effects, from which we are still reeling, have changed our country profoundly.”
Lewinsky explained how bullying is not taken as seriously as it should, citing how teen Brandy Vela shot herself because of severe cyber bullying. She did, however, support how Jews are reclaiming the parenthetical “echoes” from anti-Semites on social media as a way to combat trolls–and own their identities. But this is also not enough. Lewinsky believes we all need to do more:
“Rather than trying to clean up our messes ex post facto, we can consider engendering empathic responses and creating environments in social media that, from their initial designs, foster support, compassion, and community. Bake empathy into the cake rather than frosting it later.”
I myself echo this sentiment. As someone who is on some form of media throughout the day–as a writer–I see bullying happen all the time, from the comments on an article to “friends” arguing on Facebook. I’ve had enough. It’s time we stop forgetting that the names and faces on the other side of the screen are real live humans, not just lines of text and a couple of photos.
While it is easy to lose one’s temper–or diplomacy–out of frustration on the internet and inadvertently say something hurtful, we need to take a step back and realize just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s not real–or that mean-spirited remarks somehow hurt less.