October’s Bullying Prevention Month has found an unlikely ally in Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who has reimagined herself as a ‘bullying prevention social activist.’ She’s the force behind a new PSA campaign exploring the issue of online bullying via the question, “If this behavior is unacceptable in real life, why is it so normal online?”
The film, “In Real Life” — created by BBDO New York — shows people publicly acting out actual online comments to illustrate that at the receiving end of every comment is a real person, a fact too often forgotten in today’s digital culture.
Lewinksy’s film and emojis additions to the #BeStrong suite of emojis shine a bright light on the epidemic of cyberbullying. Lewinsky worked with a semiotician to design them, along with graphic designer, Kirsty Munn, in collaboration with Snaps.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 14, 2017
“The internet is an incredible tool that has allowed for unprecedented connection and the instant sharing of ideas,” Lewinsky stated. “But in occupying a disembodied, digital space, we also risk losing our humanity and forgetting that other people are beyond the screen. This campaign is a wakeup call to remind people that our instincts for empathy and caring are still strong. We just need to consciously extend that thinking online.”
Greg Hahn, CCO BBDO New York added, “We wanted to remind people that at the receiving end of every comment is a real person. And words have real impact. It’s all too easy to forget that in today’s online culture.”
Monica Lewinsky was thrust into the mainstream media in 1998 through her relationship with then President Bill Clinton. After a sabotaged online presence and reputation, and a break for many years, she re-entered the public conversation with her 2015 TED Talk, “The Price of Shame.” Lewinsky said, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”
“It’s a stab in the gut,” Lewinsky told Glamour of her personal cyberbullying experience. “A punch. Someone hammering you on the head. All of the sudden, people who had never met me were talking about me online, on air, making judgments, analyzing me, assuming things about me.”
“It was really challenging. There was no handbook. There was no understanding of what it meant or the consequences. There wasn’t really anyone else in the online space to look at and say, What did they do? How did they get through this?”
“If people behaved online more like they do in real life, we’d reduce cyberbullying. Sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to step in when you see someone being picked on, but reaching out to the target even afterward and offering support is important. That’s what the #Bestrong emojis are about.”
The #BeStrong campaign offers free anti-bullying emojis can be downloaded below as part of the #ClickWithCompassion intiative:
— Ditch the Label (@DitchtheLabel) October 15, 2017
Lewinsky has rallied around October’s National Bullying Month in the past, including last year’s Be Strong campaign.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 17, 2016
The issue is more relevant than ever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the leading cause of death for US teens and young adults, with estimates that 1 in 5 teen suicides are caused by bullying and that the suicide rate between 2007 and 2014 among children more than doubled.
The campaign supports a range of non-profit organizations, including The Amanda Todd Legacy, The Bully Project, The Childhood Resilience Foundation, The Diana Award + Anti Bullying Pro, Dance Free Movement, Ditch the Label, Global Dignity, Heart Mob, Hollaback!, Project Rockit, Sandy Hook Promise, and The Tyler Clementi Foundation.