5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place, With Vanessa Gordon

When I ever write anything online, I always go above and beyond with being polite and courteous, especially since rhetoric could be interpreted in so many different ways, so I always stay on the positive side. And even in these sorts of cases where I write a comment on a post, video, etc. there are […]

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When I ever write anything online, I always go above and beyond with being polite and courteous, especially since rhetoric could be interpreted in so many different ways, so I always stay on the positive side. And even in these sorts of cases where I write a comment on a post, video, etc. there are those rare occasions where someone gruffly replies in disagreement. I respect people’s opinions but when it becomes argumentative and pointed, I refrain and ignore.

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 Vanessa Gordon. Vanessa is the Publisher of East End Taste Magazine LLC and the Founder of the popular Hamptons Interactive Brunch.

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

My name is Vanessa Gordon, I am the Publisher of East End Taste, an online publication that covers all things food and drink in the Hamptons along with a travel, event and style column. The website focuses on refined living and style while also being family friendly, noting where to eat and what to do with families on the East End of Long Island and with regards to travel.

I am also a freelance food and travel journalist, and am the Founder of the Hamptons Interactive Brunch, an annual summer event that most recently took place on July 20th in East Hampton.

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

The most interesting story definitely revolves around planning an event. It is quite interesting to see the dynamic of all of the intricacies on the backend. My goal is first and foremost to always make people happy with an endeavor that I take on, so it is always a lot of moving pieces and information to gather. In particular, most recently is simply learning about how to prioritize the planning steps and learn what guests most appreciate: great food and music!

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?

For me, the funniest mistake I made was actually a happy accident. I’ve always been very persistent and goal oriented, and in the beginning I would make direct calls and inquiries to CEOs, top executives and media personalities for opportunities, internships, etc. and interestingly, I would receive a prompt response. I didn’t realize that the time the “chain of command” per se. I just went right to the top. The lesson was simply a learning experience of how the field works and what the appropriate channels for connecting with certain individuals are.

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

A new project I have been working on is expanding my travel and destination coverage. Since many of my readers and followers are from the Hamptons and the New York City metro area, they are most interested in travel coverage, especially during the Hamptons “off season.” Upcoming destinations include Ireland, Canada, the Caribbean, Jordan, Qatar, and many more in the planning phases. I love to be very detail oriented with my coverage while always considering my target audience.

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?

The most recent and interestingly enough, the most hate-filled message I received, was just two weeks ago. Thankfully I haven’t dealt with this sort of pettiness since I was in middle school. Perhaps this message sounds like someone who did not receive their ice cream cone on ice cream social day. Or perhaps it is darker and more sinister than that.

I received a direct message to my Instagram that relayed strong negativity directed at me and how I live my life and what I post online, implying that I should “take care of my children” and “clean my ‘damn’ house” instead of focusing on my career and creative content, among other absurd statements.

The most unfortunate thing about the statement was that it was written by the daughter of a particular individual who had days prior to this egregious and false message married one of my in-laws. The statement was totally uncalled for, calling me such words as a fraud and a thief. These fighting words were fueled with such jealousy, malice, and hate. My only hope is that somehow this individual (and others) could take responsibility for these words, and when that happens, the internet would be a much safer and more pleasant space. I could never imagine this person saying it to my face, for if they did they would have received a solid rebuttal…and pity. I always stand my ground, and this sort of behavior against another should never be tolerated.

It also could be unfortunate that many statements such as the one that I received come from people who are uneducated & lack class, so with cases like these it can be nearly impossible to reason with crazy. It reminds me of a famous quote from the film As Good As It Gets, when Jack Nicholson’s character says “sell crazy someplace else…”

Next time, this individual should take a deep breath and count to 10 before they write something like this, like how we were taught in preschool.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

I instantly realize the source and shake it off. With instances like these, I am more than grateful for my readers, supporters and those who have stood by my side all of these years, I know that I would not be in the place that I am without them, and I cannot thank them enough for their endearing support.

We must all support one another when oftentimes we find ourselves in similar situations. Friendship and words of wisdom are always important.

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

When I ever write anything online, I always go above and beyond with being polite and courteous, especially since rhetoric could be interpreted in so many different ways, so I always stay on the positive side. And even in these sorts of cases where I write a comment on a post, video, etc. there are those rare occasions where someone gruffly replies in disagreement. I respect people’s opinions but when it becomes argumentative and pointed, I refrain and ignore.

Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?

When you are in the heat of the moment and you feel passionate about a certain position, it may be hard to turn away from the opportunity to express your opinion. It taught me that what you write online is not necessarily for yourself but for the whole world. Take a step back for a moment, rethink and rethink again what you are about to write and what type of impact it could make.

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?

I can certainly understand why many A list celebrities refuse to Google themselves and real the tabloids. Honestly, it can hurt and it does hurt. All at first, it can feel quite debilitating and you feel helpless and confused in many instances. What have I done to this person? Why are they attacking me? Why are they writing these things?

To resolve these feelings, over time and years of experience with dealing with this, I have learned to recognize the source and know that these individuals in most if not all situations would never say this outloud in public and to my face. Their behavior is coward-like and I think if the opportunity allows, we have every right to “ignore” and “block” these parties.

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

These are both extraordinarily different. In real life, you have the opportunity to not only defend yourself but to face the individual ‘head on’ without anything being etched, if you will, online. I would personally much rather have a verbal argument rather than an online attack any day. And I think that goes to show how harmful an online attack could be and how it should be avoided at all costs. These online attacks do not help anyone and do much more harm than anything.

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

I really feel it goes as far as short-term memory. Unless it is a major headline that spans for days, people move on and forget. The hurt does linger, but as long as you stay true to your character, everything will move merely along. People must also realize the source of these comments and take them for a grain of salt. Sowing the bad seed with negativity online only will strike back at the one writing it in the end.

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?

  1. Anonymity: It t is indeed why online bullying is such an epidemic. Online users have that option to remain anonymous when spewing hatred. Not only are they hiding behind their screens, they are hiding under a sudo username and profile, which can be quite disturbing.
  2. Low self-esteem: there may be some deep rooted problems and with these social media platforms and the opportunity for other users to post all about their trips, their families, etc. it may enhance these bullies’ low self-esteem and therefore bring out the worst in them.
  3. A desire to be heard: whether or not these individuals choose to remain anonymous, they want their voices and their opinions heard, and they feel this is the only way to do it. No one will stop them and they are in full control of what they write, when, and where.
  4. They are being bullied themselves: instead of dealing with their own bullying situations appropriately, they displace these feelings and take them out on someone else, creating a vicious cycle.

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?

  1. Check in with old friends: I feel sometimes that each time I am thinking about a friend from college, grad school, or even my first job, they end up contacting me first and sometimes they could use some reassurance or they need some advice on a certain subject matter. I have made it a point going forward to reach out to three acquaintances and old friends each month, and am so happy to say that I have been reforming many connections and friendships. That makes me happy more than anything.
  2. Take frequent social media breaks: I never feel guilty about taking a vacation away from social media. When I went to Australia, I took a three week break from social media, and recently, I have been online less frequently. I feel very renewed and recharged. Though I do look forward to creating and posting more content again soon, this time away is very rewarding. Prioritizing responsibilities away from social media is key.
  3. Be conscious of what you yourself share online: don’t overexposure yourself and keep certain matters private. Remember, to help create an all-around positive internet experience, I recommend to be more neutral with what you post, lessening the chance of any cyberbullying attacks. Keeping political opinions, for example, is strongly recommended.
  4. Compliments go a long way: kindness always comes first. I also make it a point that any day I am on social media, to write five meaningful compliments to someone, whether I know them or not. I find that many times they reply and we form a mini conversation. I have even had people reach out saying that my words of kindness “made their day.” It’s that reciprocation that makes the internet a brighter and kinder place to be.
  5. Pause before typing: and lastly, if we are feeling passionate and one-sided about a certain position or situation, if we want to voice our opinion, especially if it has a negative connotation, pause and step away. Take an hour break. Every time I do that, I never end up writing what I had initially intended. I love that I have that control over my actions and I feel more empowered in the end.

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?

While I do appreciate wholesome conversation and certain judgements, I do tend to question why people choose to spend their time spewing hatred and negative criticism online. Certainly I have received perceived negative comments on my posts before. I (or my assistant) leave the comments up if they hold substance and their opinion is valid, yet if it is a direct attack that is irrelevant, it is removed. My platform is no place for bullying, in fact East End Taste is built solely on positivity, and I condemn any such actions immediately. It won’t be tolerated.

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

Just like ad approvals, I think that content should be heavily monitored and I feel that Facebook and Twitter should be more proactive when it comes to certain accounts being reported for bullying behavior. Depending upon the severity of the content, a warning should be set, and then any other attempt at bullying will deem a ban from the social media platform by not only their email but also their IP address, if possible.

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

“If you want something done, you have to do it yourself,” and “If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.”

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 love the show Kobra Kai and am so looking forward to next season. That is the only show my husband and I have ever binge-watched. So I’d love to meet Ralph Macchio and William Zabka. I met Ralph very briefly in East Hampton about 4–5 years ago but would love to speak with him more. I would be over the moon if they both created an anti-bully campaign in tandem with the third season. I think it would receive outstanding endorsement.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers may find me at and on social media @eastendtaste & @hamptonsinteractivebrunch.

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

Thank you!

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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