Be More With Monica

The room was completely full when Monica Lewinsky asked us all to answer a simple question. She asked us to raise our hands if we had ever made a mistake we wish we could take back, and to no surprise, the entire room raised their hands. She followed with asking us to keep our hands up if the entire room knew about our mistake. To no surprise, Monica Lewinsky kept her hand raised as the entire room let theirs down. It was then that Monica Lewinsky asked us to just call her Monica and listen to her as a speaker and not as a news headline.

On October 24, 2017, Monica Lewinsky came to the University of Iowa through the University Lecture Committee. I had the opportunity to attend this lecture alongside some of my friends, and we had no idea what to anticipate. Like most people, when we think of Monica Lewinsky, we think of one thing: The Bill Clinton Sex Scandal.

Monica did not come to the University of Iowa to talk about her infamous scandal from the 1990s. She came to enlighten us about compassionate social media with the Bystander Revolution. Like most people, this was not what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Monica took us back to when her sex scandal exploded. She detailed her experiences of being silenced, terrified of consequences, fat-shamed, slut-shamed, her character being globally destroyed and her battles with suicidal ideation. This all of course was timed poorly as the digital world was exploding. It was as if we forgot that Monica Lewinsky was an actual person and not just an infamous name. Despite the intense aggression Monica faced, she has decided to come out publicly to educate and advocate. Here are only a few of the lessons she shared with us.

Be a Savvy Consumer of Media

This era of journalism thrives on clickbait, or catchy headlines on media outlets that aim to get views or clicks, which often earn online media outlets advertisement revenue. Clickbait is often very toxic, gossipy and lacks to recognize the person they are writing about as an actual person. Before you click on anything, think about the actual person behind this article, and if this is something they would be okay with the world, including their grandmother, reading.

Produce Media Ethically

Monica answered a question from the audience for how journalists should respond when an editor or boss asks for an article that might damage or cause harm to a person. It may be difficult to stand up to your superior, especially if your job is on the line, but she expressed the importance on remaining ethical and humane when covering topics, including serious sex scandals. Keep in mind, somebody has to speak up or nobody will.

Freedom of Expression

It is known that one of the United States of America’s best freedoms is that of expression. We live in a country where we can say nearly anything we’d like with few exceptions. This however, does not mean that we should say whatever we want. We should strive to speak with intention rather than to speak for attention.


Social aggression also takes place on countless social media platforms. This video, produced by In Real Life and Monica displays real tweets that carry tremendous weight and how those words sound and look in person. Your words matter and people will see them. Click with compassion when you’re online, and stand up and check in on those who might have been impacted. Shame cannot survive empathy.

Understand the Impacts of Humiliation and Shame

Monica explained that humiliation was a deeper felt feeling than happiness and anger. She also mentioned studies that showed from 2012 to 2013 an 87 percent increase of cyberbullying. We see these impacts from ordinary teenagers being bullied online to paparazzi and hackers sharing and selling nude pictures online of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. These actions have become a public health crisis.

Find your Community Online

While media has a lot of opportunities to harm individuals and groups, it also has many positive attributes. Members of minority groups often find their people online, especially if they live in areas where they feel isolated. Find your community. Make your media use positive.

From the University of Iowa to Monica, we are extremely thankful we had the opportunity to hear her lessons and story. It is my hope that passing this information along will change the online dynamic and save at least one life.