If there was something that Monica Lewinsky first thought about before making a PSA for Bullying Prevention Month it was: “I wanted to creatively demonstrate the difference between our online and offline behavior in a thought-provoking way.”
The result, the powerful new PSA In Real Life, which she worked on with ad agency BBDO New York, and Dini von Mueffling Communications, premieres Monday. The video, she says, highlights, “How people hiding behind a screen will write something they’d never say to someone’s face — and what that says about the inhumanity of their actions. It’s a stark and shocking mirror to people to rethink how we behave online versus the ways that we would behave in person.”
She would know.
Nearly twenty years ago, after prosecutor Kenneth Starr broadened his investigation of then-President Bill Clinton to include their affair, she became the target of not only of a federal investigation but also the subject of widespread ridicule online and many a cruel joke.
As for the new PSA, she says, “We hired actors to reenact hateful cyberbullying posts that had been made on social media. We took those actors into public spaces. They engaged in these conversations almost as an improv, using the language which we had found online. And the footage captures people who had no idea that they were actors, then stepping in and standing up for people.”
“The people in the video who overhear the comments were not actors,” explains Lewinsky, 44. “They were not aware the actors were reading real social media posts. Their reactions and actions were real. It was heartening to see real New Yorkers stand up for people. I especially loved that most intervened without bullying the bully, but instead standing up for the targets.”
As for how her own past played a role in its tone, she says, “I think that there are are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of horrible things, which have been said about me online and in print. But I can count on one, maybe two hands, how many times people have been rude to my face. That’s my own personal connection. When you are with someone, when you see someone face to face, you are reminded of their humanity.”