I’ve always been conscious of the danger of social media. Maybe that’s why for a long time I avoided it. Not being on Facebook during my thirties saved me from a multitude of pregnancy announcements that would have been difficult to withstand. And I feel truly blessed that since I came out online about my pursuit of motherhood, I seem to have avoided the tongue of the troll. But I also know that it’s only a matter of time. One day, someone, somewhere is going to pass judgement online on something I’ve written or said. Justified or not, it will be there forever for the world to see, and I know it’s going to hurt.
That’s why I’m dedicating my blog this week to Monica Lewinsky – that woman – who after nearly a decade out of the limelight did a TED talk this month about the culture of online humiliation and the need to develop compassion for the real people behind our comments and clicks. She describes herself as ‘patient zero’ of losing a reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously as a result of the digital revolution. Not only is her talk brave and brilliant, it is also an extraordinary insight into the woman she really is. As I watched it, I realised that my opinion of her had been formed purely by what I’d read other people say, and not by who she was when I listened to her speak. I urge you to watch it too by clicking here and see if you feel the same.
Monica was born in July 1973. She’s 41 (nearly 42). As far as I can tell she hasn’t had children and on her Wikipedia site, in the section entitled ‘Life After The Scandal’ the final sentence reads: ‘a stable relationship leading to marriage, which she reportedly desired, has also not happened.’ When I read this, after I had listened to her TED talk, my heart went out to her even more because I feel certain that her biological clock will be ticking – in fact the alarm will probably be ringing – and I know only too well how that feels. But there I go again, making assumptions even if it’s a compassionate one, about someone else’s life from what I’ve gleaned online. I better watch that if I don’t want anyone to do to me the same.