Finally and most importantly, we should all just try a little kindness! We are all here, trying our best in our own strange little ways. Not everyone is good, or kind, or nice, but we have to lead by example and just try and be the change we want to see!
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 Amy Merrywest — Founder & Director of Moaning Cow Corporate Massage & Wellbeing in London.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Amy! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Hi! Thanks for having me here today! I first entered the wellbeing industry about 10 years ago, having never really experienced the goodness it can bring.
I started out in marketing in London and had a very keen interest in sports — after a considerable amount of direction-changes, I finally found my path!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I love this question — just because I get to tell you my most treasured story!
Within Moaning Cow, I am a massage therapist. I treat all kinds of people with all kinds of complaints and on one particular occasion, I treated a lady who was experiencing multiple problems. She came to me for a relaxing massage. One that would help to relieve generalized pain and lower her stress — her one instruction was to be quite firm.
After an hour-long treatment, she was very happy and felt completely relaxed, so I left her to enjoy the rest of her day.
A week or two later I received a call. She explained that she felt quite “strange”, she was very emotional and felt very hormonal — explaining that this was quite a significant change and she was concerned.
Massage can have quite profound effects on some people. Often, the more powerful the after-effects — the bigger the initial problem. I was confident that it was quite normal and reassured her.
She actually then went on to have one or two more treatments and as I got to know her, she explained that she and her partner had been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive a child.
Again, she enjoyed her treatments and I did not see her for some time after this.
Until one day I got the loveliest phone call I have ever received.
Her sparkling voice came down the line and her joy was hard to mistake. She was expecting her first child any day and she wanted to say thank you!
I should mention here that I do not claim to offer any kind of fertility treatment and this is not something that I have any experience in.
However, for this one special lady, she felt so sure that the hormonal and wellbeing shifts she experienced had somehow allowed her body to rebalance itself and she knew that those changes started with the massage she had received.
She has since sent me pictures of her beautiful baby boy and I feel so very lucky to have been part of that process with her.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am always looking at new therapies and treatments. We currently offer corporate massage, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga and we hope to begin offering sound therapy very soon.
There are many theories behind sound therapy (also known as sound bathing), and how the different frequencies stimulate your brain.
However much detail one can really be certain of, there is one thing we know for sure — sound therapy can provide the ideal basis on which we can base all methods of calming and relaxation.
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 have experienced negativity aimed at me personally and I have been subjected to unkind words but this has never happened on social media. It would seem that such negativity is common in our technology-led world, so I guess I am very lucky.
When it comes to social media and commenting on subjects that are particularly emotive, I tend to shy away from having a public opinion. The real me is nothing like this — my husband would be the first to tell you that I am probably one of the most frustratingly opinionated people around — so I guess I actively avoid posting my thoughts publically as I see how hostile social media can be.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
Again, this is not something that has happened to me. I have opinions, like everybody else but I try and treat others as I’d like them to treat me — we have to be the change that we want to see.
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?
Comments made online tend to be so much more venomous than those we make face to face because hearing and actually saying the words to a person in front of us means that those words need to run through a more ‘human’ filter. As if the words we write online are not entirely subjected to the writer’s conscience.
Because of this, the words said are so far beyond hurtful that they can really crush someone.
I have been building my business for years and I have worked so hard to get to where I am now, so if someone posted a hurtful and personal comment online, I would be devastated.
For the receiver, it can be a lifetime of dreams, work, and ambition, torn down in a second by someone venting their anger and spite. It is cruel and senseless.
Do you think a verbal online attack feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
I think the issue is not where or when the comments are made, it is the nature of them. The comments online are often more hurtful because they tend to be more personal, graphic and unkind. This is because the person writing them is not having that human interaction that is needed and so the victim is dehumanized.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
Because the comments tend to be so much more cruel than those made face to face, they are likely to be more damaging. This kind of negativity can have a devastating effect on someone.
Not only this, but the comments are then left there forevermore — meaning the victim is forced to relive the trauma.
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?
Again, those making the comments are not saying them whilst having a normal ‘human’ experience. The very ’human’ experience that would stop most people.
The internet also covers every kind of topic imaginable — topics that most of us would not discuss lightly. People are now able to actively take part in conversations around very emotive subjects, so I guess the passion takes over the self-restraint!
People also use social media as a virtual punch bag. With our stressful lives, we need to vent more than ever and unfortunately, some individuals take out all that anger and emotion online, to anyone that they come across. Maybe jealousy, rage, hurt, pain — whatever they have got going on.
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?
- We should all run our comments through a filter first. That filter should be ‘how would I feel if someone said this to me’. The people on the receiving end of the comments are humans and we need to remember that.
- For people who are likely to unleash all kinds of fury, it could be a good idea to send the comment to a loved one or friend first. If they are too ashamed to send it then it’s probably not fit for the public domain.
- If I feel particularly antagonized by something I have read, I take time out to process it and calm down. Before reacting, I would urge anyone who is about to write something spiteful, to step away from their device and do something else for ten minutes. The chances are that on reflection, they will come to see that their response was going to be unkind and not appropriate.
- In addition to this, it is worth looking at things from a different perspective. We could try to understand why someone has an opinion that seems so different from our own? Maybe they have chosen a different approach to something because of a troubled past or a bad experience. We are all capable of making big life choices because of experience — especially trauma.
- Finally and most importantly, we should all just try a little kindness! We are all here, trying our best in our own strange little ways. Not everyone is good, or kind, or nice, but we have to lead by example and just try and be the change we want to see!
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 think in a perfect world the internet would have a filter built into its algorithms to rid the public domain of toxic content.
Sadly this is not the case.
I think we should all have the right to say what we want as long as it is not a personal, hateful attack on someone else. We have the right of opinion and freedom of speech, but we should extend those rights so that victims are protected if the opinions of others are vocalized with hate.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
That would be a monumental task and one that would probably require a lot of hard work. I would be a very unpopular member of the team as I guess I’d adopt one strike and you’re out approach!
We are all capable of having an opinion and a voice without unnecessary, gratuitous hate.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” — Gandhi
We cannot change the world alone but collectively we can be great. If we all took Gandhi’s approach, the world would be so much kinder.
This is relevant to me because I always try hard to be the best I can be when it comes to the way I treat others and the things that I do.
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 🙂
Arianna Huffington would be a great lunch date. I think she’s a wonderful businesswoman, she’s super funny and I LOVE Greek food!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Moaning Cow Corporate Massage & Wellbeing can be found on Twitter (https://twitter.com/MoaningCowM) Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MoaningCow1/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/moaning_cow/).
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!