Monica Lewinsky wants to show online trolls that they can't hide behind their screens without consequences.
In her latest PSA In Real Life, which premiered Oct. 9 in honor of Bullying Prevention Month, the activist offers up a powerful message: What you write online affects people just as much as it does when you say it in person. The 60-second clip, created with the ad agency BBDO, embeds actors in real-life settings around New York City.
In four different scenarios, the actors are shown being bullied in public places. At the beginning of the clip, a man approaches a same-sex couple at a café and tells them that he thinks they are sick and that they should kill themselves. In a later scene, one woman walks up to another and says, "Fat bitches like you should get over themselves and go on a diet. I'm traumatized. Get a gym membership." (Reassuringly, non-actors witnessing these scenes intervene, standing up for the victims of these attacks.) The most shocking thing about the clip? Every cruel word directed towards the victims was written by a real person on social media.
Just like the victims in the PSA, Lewinsky is no stranger to cyberbullying. Over the past decade, she's chosen to channel her pain into something productive - helping other victims move forward. "I have first-hand experience that allows me to truly empathize with what others are going through," she says. "This has meant I was able to find a way to use my voice and my past to be a helpful part of this conversation, help targets feel less alone, and destigmatize what it means to be bullied or cyberbullied."
She hopes to inspire people to be a little more careful about what they write online - and to stand up to cyberbullying if they see it happening. "Before you post, ask yourself: Does it pass the Face Test? Would you say this to someone's face? If not, then you shouldn't post," Lewinsky says. If you encounter cyberbullying, a simple "stop" or other show of support can make a huge difference to the person under attack, she adds. Says Lewinsky, "I know from personal experience how a small gesture or compassionate word from a stranger can have a huge impact to feeling less alone."
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