I was 10 years old when the Lewinsky scandal broke. I remember finding the newspapers my mother had hid in our armoire in the dining room in fear that I would find out what a blow job was. Still, she couldn't hide the scandal from me and I remember feeling embarrassment for "that woman."
Like everyone else at that time, I had no idea that anything significant was happening in our media landscape. That with a few clicks, internet users held the power to change cultural conversations or that "cyber bullying" would end lives.
Seventeen years later, after watching Lewinsky's recent TEDTalk The Price of Shame, I realize how important that first "click that reverberated around the world" really was.
The power of the Internet is on one hand exhilarating, on the other terrifying. We live in a world where one tweet can completely ruin a career. I live with this reminder every day as MindBodyGreen's social media manager.
It's an electrifying force that we all have to live with. The actor Josh Hutcherson explained this so well recently on The Tonight Show. He told Jimmy Fallon he didn't have the password to his own Twitter account for fear that he'd drunk tweet and trash 12 years of hard work in just a few seconds. "It's too powerful," he said. "It's like the ring in The Lord of The Rings. You don't want it. It's too much responsibility."
I had to laugh, but I knew exactly what he meant. We've all seen people wreck their reputations with silly posts that might have seemed funny in the moment. It's a risk that comes with using the internet. Much more horrific is the power of the internet to bully people into shame or silence. I'm thinking of the tragic cases of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick and 15-year-old Amanda Todd.
In her talk, Lewinsky points out that with freedom of expression should come responsibility for what we're expressing. Yet we're all still clamoring to be heard above the noise, to be the first to offer our opinions, or click to see the pictures that have been hacked, all the while seeking solace in the seeming anonymity that's provided by a screen.
What gets lost is the fact that we have incredible power, and for me, this is what trumps that terrifying feeling. We can change whether or not Kim Kardashian's naked pics #BreakTheInternet or the #DropThePlus movement gets shared.
When we log onto Google and Facebook every day, Lewinsky reminds us that this is what we should be thinking about. The Internet is here to stay, and we need to learn how to live with it in a positive and constructive way and take responsibility for what we do online just as we would IRL.
Readers have an incredible power now that they've never had before. As political pundit Sally Kohn said in her TEDTalk from last summer Don't like click bait? Don't click, "Everything we blog, everything we tweet, and everything we click is a public act of making media. We are the new editors. We decide what gets attention based on what we give attention to."
In other words, Lewinsky is right. With every click, we make a choice. I encourage you to watch her incredible TEDTalk below, if you think it's worth your click.