“5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place” With Lucy Rendler-Kaplan

It’s one thing to think something and want to post it — and while you might think to yourself, “This is too mean. I shouldn’t write this. But I’M FEELING IT!” — once you see someone else post it? Certain people will find it that much easier to jump in. If you and I were to really get into […]

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It’s one thing to think something and want to post it — and while you might think to yourself, “This is too mean. I shouldn’t write this. But I’M FEELING IT!” — once you see someone else post it? Certain people will find it that much easier to jump in. If you and I were to really get into it about something face to face, we might be loud. And someone at another table might look over and give us that look. But if we were to really get into that very same something online, there will be people that for whatever reason, have an uncontrolled compulsion to join in and give their unsolicited opinions and thoughts.

As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Lucy Rendler-Kaplan. Lucy is the founder of Arkay Marketing & PR. Arkay is a boutique agency focused on public relations, social media and marketing. With over 18 years of marketing and PR experience, she has been fortunate to work with some of the world’s most recognized brands, athletes, musicians and public figures. She is a featured writer for Social Media Today and has been known to conduct most of her conversations in under 250 characters. Her uniquely creative approach to brand strategy and digital marketing helps clients ranging from start ups to million-dollar brands.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thank you so much for this opportunity! I “fell into” my career, so to speak. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be both an actress and a writer. My parents’ home is still packed with filled notebooks of “books” I wrote, beginning when I was 3 years old! In undergrad, I studied journalism, was the News Editor of my college paper, The Independent, and had a job pretty much locked up for when I graduated in a small city we’ve never heard of. While still in school, I answered an ad for a promo job, sampling a brand-new beverage. It was an energy drink and while I’d never had an energy drink or knew they existed, I DID know that I was a perfect candidate for as much caffeine as I could get. So, I went to work on weekend nights, handing out tiny blue cans of this beverage to people in bars and drove around in a tiny blue car with red wings on the side. My manager there liked me and my enthusiasm and told me that there was a full-time field marketing manager position opening at…you guessed it! RED BULL! I applied and because they liked her, I got the job. I know nothing about marketing except that it worked on me. When I would see commercials, I got drawn into the excitement about “discovering” a new product and almost immediately would feel compelled to make a purchase. They sent me to grad school since I had no clue what I was doing, and I was hooked.

Fast forward four years, I moved to Los Angeles, still with Hollywood dreams. Certainly, my experience in small films and local television shows and a boatload of bombed auditions would make me a star! After a few years of more small roles in films and tv and nothing hitting, I looked at my dog and realized — it’s time to stop struggling — marketing was my calling. I got lucky quickly and helped start an energy drink and a water company that was sold to Starbucks. Then I got REALLY lucky and found a dream job at one of the first coconut water companies. For five years it was one of the best jobs ever. Then in 2011, Pepsi took minority control of the company. I’d just signed a new lease on a way too expensive Hollywood apartment and worried that if they bought the company, I wouldn’t be able to make my rent. Naïve? Yes, but that was the catalyst for starting Arkay Marketing & PR.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

It would be impossible to pinpoint the MOST interesting story. I have a few that could be contenders for the “craziest” story though! Admittedly, I was a bit of wild child…in my late 20s to mid-30s. As my career matured, I knew I had to grow up fast to keep up with it. Today, the most interesting stories to me, are the incredible mentors I have been fortunate enough to meet and work for and learn from. Today, the most interesting stories are how the work I am fortunate enough to have are about the people we help.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh, boy! There have been many! One that sticks out to me — in 2008, I joined Twitter. It was still new, only having begun two years prior. I’d just heard of it in ’08 and knew I had to be a part of it. Just like most of my early marketing career, I had no clue what I was doing. When I joined, I joined under the name of my coconut water. When I worked there, the biggest “mistake” (I’d rather refer to it as my biggest “lesson learned”) I made was that I had ZERO work/life balance. My entire self was wrapped up and comingled with my job. So, while I joined Twitter with the username of the company, it was really ME. Hence, my first tweet being, “Let’s see what this is all about!”

The good thing about that was, at that time, transparency and authenticity wasn’t being touted online as it is now. So that account was as raw and honest and real as can be. And it worked. From the very start I was having genuine conversations with people and building relationships. There was no such thing back then as “engagement metrics” but I imagine our analytics would have gone through the roof! And that’s how I consult and run social for all my clients today. Just like if you were to meet me face to face, you will meet that exact same person online. And if you look at our social media clients’ pages, they’re as authentic as the person behind them. We are all only ONE person, and it’s never made sense to me to try to be anyone else just because you’re typing as opposed to speaking.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I sure am! All my clients are exciting to me. That’s why I work as much…err, constantly. I wake up jazzed every day to do MORE for each of them. Contextually though, I have a client that is one of the original NYC true punk rockers. He’s as hard core as they come, complete with the arrests, fights, insane rumors and very large (and a bit menacing to some) skull tattoo that takes up most of his bald head. At first glance and quick judgment, he’s perhaps one of the least likely to be beginning to lead the charge of men that are opening up about mental health and more specifically, PTSD.

I think that now, more than ever, it’s important for men to lead the way for other men and young boys to erase the stigma around sharing feelings about mental health. And that’s especially not being done in the hard core & punk communities. And that must change. For years, fans have been coming to him in DMs or private messages sharing that they’re having hard times. If you speak to him, he will say he has no idea why that is, but we know. Despite a career that’s made him famous around the world, it’s easy to recognize the empathy that comes from him. Lately, he’s becoming more and more secure in sharing those feelings that too often we’re trained not to talk about. With that, he acknowledges that’s it’s time to do MORE. And we are. And we are going to do even MORE.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?

Personally, I have not. And almost daily, I talk with people about how incredibly grateful and uber fortunate I am that when I was a teenager, there was no social media. An insecure kid with zero self-reflection or care of consequences, I would’ve been one of the first “social-media-gone-WAY-wrong” stories on Dateline or worse.

At the same time, I run client’s social media accounts where they have been publicly shamed and “attacked” on social. The mama bear in me comes out. My first thought is reactionary, naturally. However, social media is the new “permanent record” we all grew up fearing. But now that record is on steroids and people in places you’ve never even heard of see it.

As part of my growing up in my career and myself, I play it rather safe on social media. However, I know despite anything I do, it can still happen at any time. I’m a vocal woman. I have my own successful company. I’m a sportswriter. I know that any of that, all of that, simply being a girl makes “us” a target.

Until recently, I lived on Twitter. In the past few years, as cyber bullying has become more commonplace, I have consciously and very sadly, been less active there as Lucy. There were just too many days where I found myself taking on the feelings of other women that were the focus of shame and embarrassment. It’s almost an impossible situation — and it pains me to admit that if you’re a woman on social media, it’s not a matter of “Will someone come after you?” It’s a matter of when.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

The honest answer? Even though it hasn’t happened to me directly, it’s still made me cry. And it has made me play it safer than I’d like to. But it’s also driven me to action. And there is so much more I want to do.

When it happens to a client, I often have to take a step back. I need to remind myself of all the platitudes we hear and roll our eyes at; “Hurt people hurt people” and the like. But those do help. And taking an extra breath or walking away from my laptop and taking my dog for a walk or even playing a game of Candy Crush can make all the difference in the world.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

No. I am very deliberate when I comment or make a post.

And I’m the same way with my clients.

Before I post anything on any social platform, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Is this necessary?
  2. Is this helpful?
  3. Is this kind?

Because I live and breathe social media and have for more than 10 years now, I take a lot more time before posting anything on social media. And I VERY often write a post or comment and then delete it. I NEVER want to be the person that says something online that deliberately hurts another person.

When one reads the comments on YouTube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?

“We” don’t get to decide what is critical, harsh or hurtful to anyone but ourselves. Everyone’s feelings are valid. Even the most benign comment can be taken out of context. Each of us comes to everything with our own background and history. And even with our closest friends, we may never know what hurt they carry or what may trigger them. I’ve even been surprised MYSELF at some things I’ve been hurt by — and what may hurt me one day might be something I laugh about another.

Do you think a verbal online attack feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?

100%. I think a lot of this has to do with the mob mentality of social media. It’s one thing to think something and want to post it — and while you might think to yourself, “This is too mean. I shouldn’t write this. But I’M FEELING IT!” — once you see someone else post it? Certain people will find it that much easier to jump in.

If you and I were to really get into it about something face to face, we might be loud. And someone at another table might look over and give us that look. But if we were to really get into that very same something online, there will be people that for whatever reason, have an uncontrolled compulsion to join in and give their unsolicited opinions and thoughts.

What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?

Sadly, we see daily that people that have been bullied online end their lives.

We read about and even know people whose online shaming and cyberbullying has gone viral, resulting in years of damage to their reputation. With a simple click, strangers are able to completely ruin peoples lives. People they will never meet. “Forgive and forget” doesn’t apply in the digital age.

People have had to move when “mob justice” gets set into motion- addresses are posted online to the world, children’s schools and photos are out there for anyone to see…there is no end to the effects online shaming can have.

Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?

Sadly, it’s too easy to come up with why certain people feel justified in shaming and embarrassing others online. And while someone can be “kind and sweet people in real life,” I have to feel that if those same people are able to hurt someone online for no reason, they actually aren’t who you think they are. A true “kind and sweet” person, could never be someone to be “meaner online.”

I believe those that troll others online or leave harsh comments share some of these reasons:

  1. How often do you hear the term “IRL” (in real life) — as if there’s a differentiation between your life in person and your life online; we all only have one life. It’s who we are. And while you can pretend to be someone else online, you’re still you. People that have a belief that “The internet is not real life,” are quite simply, wrong. These same people are also the ones that most likely have uttered the sentence, “The internet is not real life.”
  2. “It feels anonymous” — anyone can put up a profile with a fake name and write whatever they want at any time. Something inside of them feels a misguided sense of power sitting alone in a room posting on social media.
  3. Immediate satisfaction — how many times have you written a letter to someone you were upset with just to get out all your feelings, knowing full well you would never mail that letter? Today, letters are less common. People can vent and get things out in a quick post. And while that poster might feel better, they haven’t considered that no one sees what you receive in the mail. But everyone sees what’s posted online.

If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?

If this were a perfect world, these all would be easy to adhere to. Wait — in a truly perfect world, we wouldn’t have to have this conversation! I can offer my suggestions and thoughts, but I also recognize that sometimes, these are “easier said than done.”

  1. Take step back. Again, go walk your dog. Play a game of Words with Friends. Listen to your favorite song. Do something that takes you fully and completely away from social media and the post that is firing you up. Do anything you can do to stop yourself from reactively responding in the moment. As much as I try to live my life coming from a state of compassion and empathy, it’s human nature to feel immediate reactions. And I’ve written blogs about how Candy Crush has helped me stay sane. Not every comment deserves a response. “When they go low,” you stay high.
  2. Remind yourself that it is not about you. The post that has you ready to retaliate is about the person that posted it. Remember that they’re responding to something based off their own lives. As much as you can, try to not take it as personally as it feels. I realize that may come across as “flip,” but it’s true — people respond based on their past experiences, traumas and current mental state. There is often no rhyme or reason to it in relation to you or what you posted and how they’ve taken it. Personally, I’ve had a rough few months. I’m a bit rawer than I’d like to be. What I may normally laugh off or ignore, I’m feeling a bit deeper these days. And I have to keep in mind — my reaction to everything is based off my current situation and feelings.
  3. Always keep in mind — every social platform has a mute and block button. I will tell you; those are life SAVERS.
  4. Every time you post or respond on social media, ask yourself: is this helpful? Is this necessary? Is this true? Is this kind? If you’re being reactive and posting in the moment, I’ll bet your post doesn’t give you a YES! answer to each of those questions. When in doubt, delete.
  5. Put the harmful post into your own words — ask the person, “Am I reading this right? Are you saying that……”? Sometimes when you force a troll or bully to really look at what they’ve posted, they’ve calmed down by then. And perhaps even forgotten about the post entirely. I’m willing to bet that more often than not, they’ll ignore you and delete the post or gasp! You may even get an apology.

Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?

IMO, freedom of speech is there to protect people from government censorship. Anyone with a keyboard can post whatever they want. And when necessary, the police or authorities have every right to act on posts they feel are hazardous, but I don’t think social media can ever be governed by the 1st Amendment. Similarly, each private enterprise that runs a social media platform can have policies in place to censor what they feel is harmful or threatening. Do they always get it right? Absolutely not.

If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?

Every social media platform needs to do more:

  • Whether it’s hire more humans as moderators, or have certain keywords flagged.
  • Twitter has recently made it harder for third party apps (bots) to automate posts, but there needs to be a next step to that. Perhaps it’s adding an icon to tweets sent out via automation so readers immediately see that it’s not being posted in real time by a human.
  • Institute lifetime bans on IP addresses if they violate the TOS too many times or in specific ways.
  • Reporting posts needs to be handled by real people, not bots. So many times posts are deemed to not violate the TOS when CLEARLY they have.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote in business is “Always take the meeting.”

It’s so easy to wave people off. Or use the dreaded, “I’m too busy for even a short meeting.” But I will tell you from personal experience — you just never know.

One meeting can change your entire life. People can surprise you. And they will.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I can think of like 20 immediately! I’m going with Anne Lamott. Her writing, from the first time I discovered her, has changed my life. And can change my mood in half a second. She has a way with words that just speak to me so deeply and in a way I would never be able to articulate.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @lucyrk

Instagram: @lucyrk78 and @arkaymarketing


Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the author:

Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder of Medium’s Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

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