In my opinion, an online attack is much worse. You most likely don’t know the person well. It is out there for the world to see and you have no control on stopping it. It can ruin your life. MOST people would never have the guts to say to someone’s face what they say when they hide behind a keyboard. You can’t see the hurt in someone’s eyes, the shock on their face or see their tears or feel the pain coming from the person when you speak so horribly to them or about them. When you type such vitriol it’s a cowardly way to attack someone and then go about your day, as if you have not done anything horrible. That to me, is sickening. Plus there is the fact that you can say these things to people from anywhere in the world. You don’t even have to know them to verbally attack them.
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 Sherrie Dunlevy. Sherrie is a former TV News Anchor and Radio talk host, turned best selling author, speaker and self proclaimed ‘Inspirationista”. Her mission is to inspire people to discover their purpose through their passions and then share it with the world. Sherrie believes that when ordinary people choose to live their lives in extraordinary ways, they help change the world.
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?
Sure, for many years I was a local TV news anchor and reporter and then most recently was a radio talk show host. I refer to myself now as a “recovering” TV news anchor as I really didn’t realize just how much of a negative effect being exposed to all that bad news over the years really affected my outlook on life. For years I was able to compartmentalize all the horrible news stories I was reporting on, from my personal life. It is something a lot of reporters, and first responders do in order to be able to continue in that profession. It wasn’t until the death of my son Brandon, that I realized, I could no longer separate or compartmentalize what I did for a living with who I was as a wife and grieving mother. The bad news I was reporting on daily was absorbing into my soul and I knew I needed to leave in order to survive emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. After many years of healing, I returned to broadcasting as the host of my own talk show, and retired from the world of broadcasting after the release of my first book. I now concentrate on my role as an Inspirationista, a title I gave to myself which I feel encompasses my journey of resilience, reinvention, and designing a life you love.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Absolutely. For the past few years I have been feeling really drawn to delivering Inspirationial messages on Facebook. I’m not sure why, but the feeling was quite strong and I have learned that when I get those kinds of nudging’s, (I call them Spirit Strikes) I listen and obey.
Anyway, one day out of the blue, I get a private message from a young woman who said she was a lawyer and women and child advocate from Uganda, Africa. She said she wanted to become a motivational speaker like me and asked if I would mentor her. At first, I thought it was a hoax, but through continued messages I learned she was everything she said she was and more. This woman, Milly, is an incredible woman who has accomplished more in her short 26 years than I have in my entire lifetime. Anyway, one day after posting a video that was not getting much traction here in the US, she reached out to me. She complimented me on my video and I said something to the effect that, I wasn’t sure why I was doing them, but I felt deeply that I needed to. I told her sometimes I feel like no one is listening. And this is what she told me, she said “ there is a woman in Uganda who listens to your messages every day and who learns from what you say. She then takes what she learned from your messages into the other villages in Africa and shares them with the girls and women who have no access to the internet. That is who is listening.”
I just started crying. I realized Milly and her girls were my “why”. They were the reason I not only have continued doing what I do, but have ramped it up a with my Facebook group called “ALL THINGS AWESOME with Sherrie Dunlevy.
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?
By far the funniest mistakes are when I go live on Facebook. Mostly it is because I am the most technically challenged person I know. But if I wait to become more proficient, I know I would be waiting forever, so I just go for it and show my warts and all. There are many times I start and stop and laugh and then have to start all over again.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am! I have become so tired of all the negativity, hate, accusations and non-tolerance on social media, Facebook in particular. It has become so mean spirited. I actually got tired of hearing many of my friends say they were quitting FB because they were just so tired of scrolling through so much negativity. I knew exactly what they were feeling, because I was feeling it too. But I know there are far more wonderful people in this world than bad. I know the world is an awesome place, but how would you be able to see this when really all we are seeing is the negative side to life. You have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see the positive, the uplifting, and the encouraging posts, and I thought, “there’s got to be an easier way to find the kinds of posts people really want to see.” That’s when I just decided to start it.
Yes, there are a lot of pages and groups that are about positivity. There are a lot of pages about funny videos, there are also a lot of pages about cute animal videos, but there really isn’t one place where you can see it all. That is why I call it “ALL THINGS AWESOME” with Sherrie Dunlevy. It is a place were you can post any content you see on Facebook you think others might enjoy and share it to the group. There are 3 intentions behind this group: 1. Create a space of awesome content where people can come and scroll, and enjoy all kinds of awesome posts.
2. Allow members to post into the group, content they see while they are scrolling on their own news feeds, that they think will brighten the day of others in our group. 3. Share content from the group on to our personal feeds, so the rest of the world can see it feel a little better too.
Let’s face it, negativity is everywhere we look, but you have to seek the positive. This is a way to make it way easier to find.
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?
I remember once reaching out to a lady privately about something and she blasted me publicly on her news feed. I was quite upset by it because my intention was to be helpful. Also because she never addressed her issue with me first before putting it out there very publicly.
I felt horrible, because my true intention was to be giving, yet she saw it as offensive. So that made me feel bad because she accused me unfairly of doing something mean to her.
I also felt a bit angry that she decided to take it public and make accusations about my intentions. So I felt bad that I hurt her. But angry that she was making public accusations.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
It took a while I must admit. But honestly, I took a look at my true intentions and I was good with that. So, I apologized to her in private and explained those were not my intentions at all but that I was sorry if I made her feel bad in any way. Then I had to let it go. What more could I do, other than start a senseless battle? I would much rather be happy than to be “right”. If she wanted to carry on, that was on her. In my mind, it had ended. I wasn’t willing to carry it with me any longer.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
I am sure I have in the past but now when I have the urge, I just scroll on by. You will never change someone’s mind by arguing on social media. And many people say preposterous things, just to try to get people to argue with them. I would rather spend my time, helping than hurting.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
I really do not remember having experienced something like this. I am grateful for that.
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?
As a former TV News Anchor and a Radio talk host, I KNOW this to be true. The comments about the way I dressed, the way my hair looked, the way I may have mispronounced a word, was all fodder for those hiding behind their keyboards.
I can tell you, this can be devastating. DEVASTATING!! Our words are powerful and no matter whether it is a professional person publicly known or a teenager posting pictures of a new outfit or hair style. Those hurtful words and comments can cut like a knife.
We are all at our core just “people”.
And most people are just trying to do their best, be their best, and live their best lives. But others, feel like they must tear someone down in order to feel better about their lives.
Even though I have had YEARS to get develop a thicker skin, which I have done, it can still cut me from time to time. The pain just doesn’t last as long. To protect myself from that kind of behavior and those kinds of remarks, I refrain from reading the comments on message boards or I just say a prayer for the poor pitiful soul who has nothing better to do than spend the waking hours of their life tearing down the life of someone else.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
In my opinion, an online attack is much worse. You most likely don’t know the person well. It is out there for the world to see and you have no control on stopping it. It can ruin your life.
MOST people would never have the guts to say to someone’s face what they say when they hide behind a keyboard. You can’t see the hurt in someone’s eyes, the shock on their face or see their tears or feel the pain coming from the person when you speak so horribly to them or about them. When you type such vitriol it’s a cowardly way to attack someone and then go about your day, as if you have not done anything horrible. That to me, is sickening. Plus there is the fact that you can say these things to people from anywhere in the world. You don’t even have to know them to verbally attack them.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
If someone does not have a well developed sense of who they are or a degree of healthy self confidence or self esteem it can be totally devastating. You have seen the stories as well as I, about people who have taken their lives as the result of such behavior.
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?
- They know they are safe. Chances are, if you were in a group of people and said these kinds of things, the crowd might turn against you. They might even attack you. When you say these things online, most times you can be anonymous or hide behind a persona in which no one can really find you.
- They have nothing better to do. They are so busy criticizing others, they have made no contributions to making the world better themselves. Most great things in life happen because someone decided to step out of their comfort zone and step into the arena of life. That involves some risk taking. Criticizing from the sidelines involves no risk or growth.
- They are jealous of other people living a more exciting life than they, so in order to make their castle look bigger, they don’t build it, they just rip all the others down.
- They enjoy it. I have a so called “friend” who is horrendous to people who do not share her political views. I have had to unfollow her as it is so mean spirited and downright degrading. She is a lovely person outside of this one area of craziness, but even after being told numerous times by friends how offensive and hurtful she can be, she continues because she says she enjoys the arguments and shredding people’s objections to her posts or opinions. I doubt she would ever say these things in a group setting of friends.
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?
Last year I recorded a video about 6 things you can do to make your Facebook Feed a more kinder, gentler place. I am happy to share 5 of those tips with you now. I will include the link to the video at the end of the tips.
- Scroll on by. If there is a subject that you know is going to trigger a negative reaction in you, scroll on. Don’t even go there. That way you will not be tempted to engage. You know what triggers you, politics, animal abuse, sports teams, starving children, anti-vaxxers, etc. Don’t stop, and read it and get triggered, just keep scrolling. This can be a very challenging thing you do.
- Don’t hit any of the “like” “love” “hate” “wow” or any other button, and for heaven’s sake don’t share. Because of the algorithm on Facebook in particular, anything you click, or share is recorded as content you like to engage in. Regardless if you do or not, Facebook picks that up as content that you like engaging in, and you start seeing more and more of it.
- DO NOT COMMENT!! It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree, do not comment on a post that you don’t want to see more similar content. Many times, I find myself wanting to defend the underdog who is in the middle of a verbal battle on a controversial subject or explain why I think differently when someone posts something I feel is hateful, spiteful or nasty and then I remember this rule and refrain from typing. First, you are never going to change someone’s mind who posted something that triggers you. Secondly, the more you engage, the more Facebook will start sending you posts from all your crazy friends on both sides of this issue.
- Use the UNFOLLOW or UNFRIEND buttons.UNFOLLOW friends who tend to post content you feel is objectionable. I say unfollow instead of unfriend because outside of one or two narrow areas of interest, where they are totally crazy, they might be good people and they might be family. It might just better to quietly unfollow them, so you no longer have to witness their ignorance. Use the UNFRIEND button when you have no interest in what that person has to say ever again, whether on line or in person. UNFRIEND can also be a way to draw a clear line in the sand of what you are willing to tolerate.
- Start “liking”, commenting, and sharing the posts that you want to see. The more cute goat yoga videos you like, the more delicious recipes you share, the more heartwarming stories you comment on, the more you will start making your social media feeds engaging, uplifting, happy, and kinder! When you start engaging in what you want to see instead of what you don’t want to see, the more awesome content will be delivered to your newsfeed.
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?
I believe the same rules should apply. The internet unfortunately is the wild wild west of Freedom of Speech laws.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
Because of what it is called “social” media, I personally would have no tolerance to this kind of behavior. We have a three strikes law for felony offenses yet, nothing to police the harmful and hurtful attacks on the internet. If you can’t play nice or by the rules, you should not be allowed to play. Social media gives you access to the world from anywhere in the world where you can pick up a signal. With that kind of power, comes great responsibility. Are you going to use that power for good or for evil?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When you know better, you do better- Maya Angelou
When I was first starting out in talk radio, I had no idea what I was doing, so I copied others. The idea was to get people so fired up they would want to call you to “give you a piece of their mind”.
I remember on incident I did this and in the process, attacked a local man in our community for giving a character witness to a man standing trial for something vile. While I believe what he did was wrong, I came to realize later that his wife and small son were driving to school and he heard me attacking his daddy on the radio. I hurt other people with my words. Since that time, I have been dedicated to using the power of the airwaves and the internet for goodness and kindness. If it doesn’t educate, entertain, uplift, inspire or make you laugh or smile, I don’t do it or say it. I now know better and am working daily to do better.
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 🙂
OMG yes! Oprah Winfrey! I actually have a picture on my vision board of me being interviewed by Oprah about my book “How Can I Help?” on her Super Soul Series.
I would love to talk to her about my mission as an “Inspirationista” working to connect to others through ALL THINGS AWESOME , and the transformative power of compassionate action. So many times we see things in the world that make us want to be better people, but when it comes down to actually doing something, we either don’t know what to do, or where to start, or how to help.
I wrote my book, to help people, help people, especially those who are going through the most difficult situations in life, like loss. Be it a loss of a loved one through death or divorce, loss of health with a chronic or terminal diagnosis, or loss of your job, we really need the support of our friends. It’s so easy to be a good friend in good times. It can be a huge challenge for some to show up in the bad times.
What I am finding is so many people just don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything. I want to change that, by providing a resource for people that tells them exactly what they can do and say to help their friend when it’s needed most.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook Group ALL THINGS AWESOME: