Third rule of the internet, Increase the quality of your content. The internet has all the quantity you can ask for but finding quality content is hard. Find content that enriches your mind and doesn’t push your world view. For example YouTube channels like smarter every day, TED, Tom Scott, or Vsauce are great places to start.
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 Austin Iuliano.
Austin Iuliano is head of Unicorn Magic at This Unicorn Life. As the head unicorn of magic, I’m tasked with making sure each and every Unicorn is given the proper lessons in Unicorn magic. Each Unicorn has unique magical properties they must master before earning their horn. You will know a Unicorn is near anytime you see a rainbow or a field of four leaf clovers
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?
This Unicorn Life is a side project that I created through a bit of serendipity. I’ve gone viral on the internet by dressing up as Unicorn and dancing around. Seeing how much joy and happiness this little act created I decided to make it into a bit of a movement. As I started to get some momentum on the site and COVID-19 making life harder for everyone, I decided to share the process of what I’m doing to create a fun and profitable business out of this idea with the internet.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
So many interesting stories. Going viral is always amazing, it’s allowed me many opportunities to be on stage with people I admire. Being ap art of major milestones like helping Whatstrending hit over 1 million followers was cool. If I focus more into this project, the most interesting story has to be sharing the journey on Reddit and watching the massive positive feedback I’m getting.
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?
The funniest mistakes have always been when trying to create interesting and viral worthy content. Like when I tried to start a massive water balloon fight at the beach, only to realize that I didn’t plan out all the logistics. I didn’t think about how to transport all the water balloons, how to wrangle all the people as one person, or how to protect my gear from getting drenched. Which resulted in me running around trying to carry everything looking like a mad man.
I learned the valuable lesson of planning, teamwork, and not trying too big of ideas right away. Sometimes it’s better to create a smaller scale idea that is implementable then a grandiose idea.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
This Unicorn Life is the new and exciting project, the idea is that the world is full of strife and hardship. We need to create something that is focused on the goodness in the world. Even though Unicorns aren’t real, they are a representation of goodness and purity. Two things we need more of. By talking about them and getting people interested in them, my goal is to create a movement where we focus on living our life like unicorns. Living a life where you help others, share in positive expressions, and be a positive influence on the world.
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?
Oh absolutely! I’ve had tons of people try and shame me. When I’ve live streamed to my audience of predominantly children, there are new audience members who come on and try and shame me and insult me. Being an adult, instead of getting upset by this I try and use it as a teachable moment.
Typically I start by calling the person out and saying something like “you know it’s okay if you don’t like what I’m doing. I respect that, I’m not for everyone. I do recommend that when you find things that make you uncomfortable you don’t immediately throw out insults. I’ve found typically people who are hating on you are just hurting inside and don’t know how to express themselves healthy. Just know (Username) that I still respect and appreciate you even if you don’t respect and appreciate yourself right now.
My audience is young and impressionable, therefore it’s my responsibility to be a positive role model to them.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I’ve learned long ago my superpower is I rarely feel shame or guilt. I’m going to be me no matter what. The best way I’ve found of shaking off negative feelings is by lifting others up.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
No. Generally speaking I try and lift others up.
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’m going to be a bit divisive here and say that public shaming can be a good thing. Not all the time of course but sometimes. It depends on the root of the message. If you are shaming someone for acting in a way that is being immoral, then this can be a positive thing. This gives them an opportunity to re-evaluate their biases and life decisions. 9 times out of 10 though public shaming is a problem. It really comes down to how that person takes the experience and what they decided to do about the experience.
Personally I’ve had people clap back at me and I’ve tried to look at their point of view.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
The biggest problem with online arguments is the nature of the medium. Any argument has many nuanced and complicated points. No matter the medium be it a Tweet or a YouTube video, there is a limit to the amount we can say which results in broad brush stroke statements. The medium of social media also creates a points system so to speak, namely engagement. Who gets the most likes on a Tweet.
This nature also means the more you appeal to the extreme version of the argument, the least nuanced, the most them vs us, the more engagement you get. This approach is the exact opposite of what it takes to have a healthy discussion.
In person, you don’t get as extreme of a situation because of the nature of the medium. Seeing the other individual humanizes them and unless you are a psychopath, you don’t want to hurt the other person. Which means you won’t go for those type of attacks, you are more willing to be wrong and hear the nuanced points. The end result is happiness and cohesion between the two people vs scoring points.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
The long term effects of public shaming have been well documented https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_humiliation. What I find more interesting though is flipping the script a bit and seeing what public praise does. What spreading positivity though social media can do.
I’m going to challenge everyone reading this to a little test. Go onto Twitter or Facebook and the first post you see give that person a genuine compliment. Typically that first post is going to be an argumentized political post with something you may not agree with.
As a liberal try complimenting a conservative, compliment them on how conservativism creates a lot of stability for families, larger communities, governments, and so forth. It allows for growth/improvement, but forces it to move gradually so there’s isn’t an unexpected implosion.
As a conservative compliment a liberal on how their progressive ideas push for innovation, how their ideals of respect and tolerance creates an equal playing field for all. How they encourage private enterprise but also want a strong safety net so privet enterprise doesn’t run amok and hurt the majority of the people or environment.
It’s hard to not publicly shame others and paint them in broad brush strokes, it takes more willpower and intelligence. But I do suggest we try to learn and respect all those we interact with to the best of our ability.
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?
- It’s fun. Like, let’s be real. It’s fun coming up with a witty clap back. It’s fun getting someone else riled up and you sitting there laughing.
- The Algorithm pushes content that re-enforces your world view and makes it easy to believe you are 100% correct.
- Most importantly, we are all struggling. Clapping back at someone makes us feel like we are in control. It makes us think we have a slight edge over our fellow human, but it actually pushes us down. By lifting others up, you create a community that supports and lifts you up.
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?
I actually do have this influence so I can speak a lot about this.
- First rule of the internet, Delete that Tweet. Don’t post. Stop adding your two cents. Not everything you think needs to be said.
- Second rule of the internet, How are they right? How am I wrong? Spend a few minutes a day fighting your own world view
- Third rule of the internet, Increase the quality of your content. The internet has all the quantity you can ask for but finding quality content is hard. Find content that enriches your mind and doesn’t push your world view. For example YouTube channels like smarter every day, TED, Tom Scott, or Vsauce are great places to start.
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?
The biggest “problem” isn’t the free speech but the enforcement of free speech policies. Inherently anything that is enforced is going to be done by a human. Humans have a biased.
This is where public shaming comes back full circle. If someone wrote a piece in the paper that was counter to what the public decided was morally right, they would shame the author. That authors ideas wouldn’t gain traction and would be relegated to obscurity. There will always be a class of ideals, free speech, and the public. The mechanism of how we communicate these ideas will just change.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. Public shaming is a consequence of your freedom to speak.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
Every social & political post would be fact checked with further info pushing to a natural source for info. I’d push naturally biased education content heavily in the algorithm.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet — My mother when the internet first came out.
I think that quote speaks for itself.
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 🙂
Neil Patrick Harris, or Ryan Reynolds. Both those guys are awesome.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
If you want to follow me personally, Austiniuliano on every social media. If you need a bit of positivity in your life, follow This Unicorn Life.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!