Your Feed Reflects You — Consider taking action if your feed is filled with anger, fights, and negativity. On Facebook, for example, you can unfollow a person or a page that focuses negativity. Also, realize that algorithms of social platforms learn from you because you’ve taught them what you want to see and who you wish to engage with — from here on out post and comment to promote kindness. Do this and see what happens to your feed after just a few weeks. It’s a game changer!
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 Mich Hancock
Mich Hancock is the dynamic CEO of 100th Monkey, a company focused on creating quality human connections and interactions, leads and conversions for B2B and B2C clients through social media.
Mich is also the Co-Founder of TEDxStLouis, an innovative and thought-provoking organization that brings TED Talk experiences to St. Louis. She interviews TEDx speakers and St. Louis movers and shakers on her popular MichMash Podcast.
She is a sought-after speaker, delivering workshops and seminars for organizations, including the Olin School of Business at Washington University. Mich also works with organizations and individuals to help them “TED-ify” their presentations.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/92a22da3b9753c4ff0eb6d9c42fb2e55
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?
I didn’t know this at the time I started my company, but now I understand my journey was part passion and part healing. In order to be successful as an entrepreneur you have to dig deep. Entrepreneurship hits you on every level — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — so you have to be fully prepared for the ride…and to gracefully move with it.
Years before creating 100th Monkey, I adopted a four-year-old boy named James. Shortly after the adoption I noticed strange behaviors like difficulty in learning from his mistakes, making odd noises and more. Then his actions began to look sinister. By the time he entered his teenage years, the behaviors had turned into knives-went-missing disturbing.
Mental health professionals described him as showing sociopathic tendencies and behaviors. As one mental health professional put it, “We have never been able to get a conscience in where it has never been.” This long nightmare consumed more than 11 years of my life and caused all my hair to fall out. It took several more years to finally release the trauma of it all for myself and my daughter.
But my story has a silver lining because, during this overwhelming time, I realized I was a very resilient human being. My newfound strength helped build a successful business that offset my years of financial loss (James’ extensive care cost a lot of money.) My new mantra of saying “yes” to life and viewing the world as my playground has enabled me to move forward while experiencing a whole lot of fun. On top of it all, I have an amazing relationship with my daughter who also became stronger after living the first part of her life in such chaos.
As I was starting a more peaceful and brighter chapter in my life, social media was beginning to come into its own. It truly looked like a dream to me. There was something about social media that just fit me. My various skill sets finally made sense. I spent one month learning everything I could about social media and then started a company.
I began by attending networking events. At the time, I loved every bit of it. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was going out and meeting people, scheduling coffee chats with them, while also reacquainting myself with myself.
At the age of 46, I was the oldest social media marketer out there. Most of my peers could have been my children. But it worked. I attracted clients who were my age, and I became a safe bridge for those to cross over into that mysterious thing they call social media.
In my saying “Yes!” to life I co-founded a TEDx organization in Missouri, started a podcast, and became an active member in a business collaborative. Then one day I received an email from Authority Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief Yitzi Weiner. He asked me to thoughtfully think through how to make social media and the internet a kinder, more tolerant place. Some may say be careful what you ask for. I say be grateful for what you ask for. No matter the outcome, go through what you feel called to do. It will take you to exactly where you should be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Definitely co-founding a TEDx!
When TED Talks appeared on Netflix, I watched every single one of them. The humans delivering their ideas from the round red rug fascinated me. All of them were undertaking important work, challenging my perceptions of the world, and dedicating their lives to evolving the human race. I was hooked!
I also felt like TED was going to be a part of my life. One thing I have learned is to never craft a story around such inklings. It’s better to park it in your brain and allow it to unfold before you when the time is right.
One day I received a Facebook message from my friend Bob Sommers. He shared with me that his brother Steve was going to bring TED Talks to St. Louis. Steve was looking for someone who could help out with social media, and Bob thought of me.
I met with Steve and we hit the ground running. Over the years we have built a strong TEDx organization, attracted an amazing team of people, engaged a crazy-interesting audience of TED heads, and assembled an impressive list of speakers all delivering Ideas Worth Spreading.
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?
While the lessons have been many, I do not recall any funny mistakes. But there are without a doubt many funny and interesting things that have happened during my time with social media.
For this I introduce you to my Director of Operations, Jill Lee. We’ve been through some very interesting scenarios together.
Funny story #1: Jill and I had a client who was in the trucking industry. We regularly posted and managed this client’s social media pages. Their Facebook page often attracted ladies who were looking for “boyfriends” and they would message the page to share which truck stops they tended to frequent. Ah, if these ladies only knew who was really reading their messages.
Funny story #2: Facebook has gotten a lot better to work with over the years, but in the early days of Facebook, it was beyond challenging. We would ask for help, but it pretty much went into some void. One day, Jill and I were bad mouthing Facebook and venting our frustrations. The next day, Facebook sent us a message suggesting a new category for our 100th Monkey business page. Their suggested category: Public Toilet. We promptly apologized to Mark Zuckerberg and all his Facebook friends, sending out lots of reminders about how much we really did love them.
Public Service Announcement story: Please realize that when you message a page, that message is more than likely being read by a social media manager, not the person or business that the page represents. So, when you share information or pictures concerning your symptoms of HPV for example, please note the doctor is more than likely not the one reading that message.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Always. We are very fluid. I love that our clients trust us to take on their numerous projects.
We help businesses grow no matter if they’re run by a solopreneur or have hundreds of employees. Our job is to help them figure out the best marketing path to get leads and conversions.
Marketing has an interesting way of uncovering issues within a company. This could mean their salespeople need additional training or their digital assets need to be refined. We help them resolve these types of issues in order to create a more synergistic system.
Some of our newer offerings include reputation management. If a business is undeservedly dealing with trolls or disgruntled employees, we assist in getting unfair reviews taken down and then provide them with processes for attracting positive reviews.
We also handle operational marketing. One of our clients was recently blacklisted, and we were able to go in, fix their database and help them to get back to business. We can develop processes — from attraction to follow through to continued growth — for client journeys.
A super fun offering is our “TED-ify Your Talk.” This program is run by myself and my colleague Josh Levey. It includes writing the talk, coaching to ensure an effective delivery, crafting a sales pitch that successfully conveys a person’s message…and everything in between. Words are powerful. A TED/TEDx talk is 18 minutes or less, so each word is important. I take all the lessons I’ve learned from helping others craft their talks into ensuring that every client’s message is as impactful and successful as possible.
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 gosh, no. I am thankful for that. I did feel it while I was dealing with my adopted son, at least on a neighborhood level anyway. My story is one that can definitely be taken the wrong way. I heard the rumors people were spreading about how I must have wanted to get rid of my son since he was black and that once I gave birth to my blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter I had no need for him.
You also have to realize that my son James was absolutely charming and sweet in public. Once we were at an event, and my daughter and I were watching him walk around talking to people. He looked so sweet and lovely; it was like watching a completely different person than the one we lived with. It was quite eerie how he could literally be two very different people in one body.
I’ve seen families pour their hearts out about similar children online, only to be told how cruel they are. Children with what is called Reactive Attachment Disorder, or children who truly are sociopathic, are not understood by most of society. This serves organizations like local children’s divisions well because they can continue placing these children in homes and collecting their federal dollars since this awareness has yet to become a part of the cultural knowledge. These children act in a way that feels evil, and that evil is in a child. It’s really difficult to wrap your brain around the situation.
Thankfully, I was blessed with people in my life who truly knew me and understood what was really going on, and they stood up for me to those who would say anything untoward. I am so very grateful to have such a supportive system of friends and family.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
Such negativity can be a shock to the system and very confusing.
My choice is to not react and to get quiet, so I can go within and ask for answers — of course, I would definitely reach out to my amazing support system. This way I provide myself space and time to make an informed decision on whether or not I should take any action.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
Yes. Oh wow, okay, I once posted a story about a woman who called the police because her dog’s tail got stuck in a Roomba. I posted the article and said, “Thoughts?”
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
I did take it down pretty soon after posting it. I felt terrible about it. I posted it because I thought it was funny and ridiculous, but when I really thought it through, I realized the article also mentioned the woman was a new mom. I remember being a new mom. I remember feeling overwhelmed, running on little sleep, trying to figure out how to take care of a new baby and all that comes with it.
So, I could totally see in my mind this poor woman, tired and exhausted and then her sweet puppy howling over the robot vacuum trying to eat him and just dialing up the police for help.
I have since sent loving thoughts to that woman, I hope she won the lottery or something equally as wonderful. If that lady is out there somewhere and reads this story, please message me on Facebook, I owe you an apology and would love to take you to lunch. I believe she lives in Ballwin, Mo.
FYI — in case you’re wondering the dog was fine.
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?
If the critique is meant to show a different perspective, provide some positive feedback or open up an intelligent discussion, then the recipient needs to be receptive and willing to take these thoughts in while asking additional questions or providing further commentary.
But if the “critique” adds no value, if it belittles and dehumanizes someone, then it is not a critique. It is an attack. This is the sort of activity that hurts my heart. Social media provides an opportunity to connect with people from around the world! To learn from each other, to bring us closer together, and to create bonds with other humans, who before were only accessible through travel. It’s a huge gift.
To those who act in this manner I have a suggestion: Grow up! This immature behavior points to something broken or wounded inside you. Stop taking your hurt and spitting it out on social media. Go talk to a therapist or a coach, go meditate, get centered — and grow up. You will be doing yourself and everyone else a solid. Aim to become a beacon for love and positivity — believe me — it’s a much healthier and lovelier way to move through life.
Do you think verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
Worse. Online attacks can spread fast and far and last forever. They are a digital tattoo, and they will never go away. When one person starts the attack, it gives license to everyone else to chime in. It’s bullying amplified. And rarely is there resolution, since there is no arguing or changing opinions of those engaging in the attack.
In real life, there are fewer people tangled up in the verbal argument. It will eventually fizzle out, be resolved or the people involved will stray apart and perhaps hold grudges, but will otherwise live their lives.
An online attack can live on in infamy, strip you of privacy and be felt deeply for years. It’s so very damaging.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
I believe this was best said by Monica Lewinsky in her TED Talk. She described herself as “Patient zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” She was 22 when the scandal occurred — 22! Who didn’t make mistakes at 22? Who, at age 22, could even know how to handle such a situation? How horrifying it must have been to have her privacy on public display and to be branded as a slut, a whore, a tart…and worse.
She gave her TED Talk at age 41. It took her 17 years to be able to give voice to what happened to her.
I can’t imagine the humiliation she must have felt or the deep betrayal she experienced at the hands of a supposedly good friend. The public showed no compassion; the media was ruthless. To have something like this define you at a young age, and then to come out 17 years later and speak to it with such grace — so impressive.
In her talk she also shares a story about Tyler Clementi, a college freshman whose roommate filmed him being intimate with another man and then shared it with the world. Tyler committed suicide.
The outcome for Monica Lewinsky was one of triumph; the outcome for Tyler was to take his own life. This culture of humiliation should and could be stopped. But it is going to take each of us to make a choice and not participate, not feed off of it, let the media and the rest of the world know that you are not interested in participating in another’s humiliation.
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?
I am baffled by such behavior. I find it difficult to understand why some people are compelled to be so mean while online. I believe there are several reasons for this behavior. These are people who lack the ability to have empathy for others, they do not value all life, or they have chosen to live an unaware existence — never taking the time to explore how to heal themselves.
This lack of maturity is an overall issue with many people. We all show up to adulthood having experienced varying degrees of trauma. And during that adulthood, it is your duty to be responsible for yourself. I am begging people to please figure yourselves out and quit inflicting your pain onto others.
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: Your Feed Reflects You — Consider taking action if your feed is filled with anger, fights, and negativity. On Facebook, for example, you can unfollow a person or a page that focuses negativity. Also, realize that algorithms of social platforms learn from you because you’ve taught them what you want to see and who you wish to engage with — from here on out post and comment to promote kindness. Do this and see what happens to your feed after just a few weeks. It’s a game changer!
#2: Your Click Matters — when you click on a link you give it power and help spread it. Before you click on the link, think. Ask yourself, “is this something that reflects what I feel is worthy of my time and respectful of the person or situation on the other end?”
#3: Be a Cheerleader — give compliments, provide good reviews, shout out to people doing loving work, build up the people and organizations that deserve it.
#4: Look Inside — this is big. If you leave your social media feed feeling drained or depressed, take notice of that feeling. If you continue worrying about a post long after you’ve put down your phone, that may be a sign that something is wrong. If you’re compelled to respond with anger, insults, or a condescending attitude, then you need to look inside! Such negativity is often a subconscious response and may stem from unhealed wounds. Recognizing this creates a wonderful opportunity for healing and growth. Find a trustworthy professional to help you find what’s hurt, heal it and become love.
#5: Be the First Monkey — for the 100th Monkey Effect to work, there has to be that first “monkey”. Be a positive force in the world of social media, every day. Use #100thME in your positive posts and join our group. Yes, we were inspired to start a Facebook Group. Come find us at #100thME.
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?
No. Platforms have guidelines and policies that should be upheld. When you sign up for a platform, you agree to adhere to these standards and it’s the prerogative of the platforms to enforce those standards by removing posts or flagging them with warning labels. People should not have the right to misinform or cause harm to others.
Of course, this is a slippery slope. These platforms are basically deciding what should and shouldn’t be seen by us. It gives those in charge a lot of power. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I do know anything that misleads or manipulates should not be given a stage. Perhaps we need to begin hiring individuals like Deanna Troi (a fictional Star Trek character who has the psychic ability to sense emotions) to watch over the posts of others and decide what should be taken down.
We as individuals can act to avoid harmful posts. We each teach the platforms to show what is of interest to us. The algorithms are set up to do so, just like when you shop on a site and choose an item and are then shown, “You might also like” items. We are each being fed what we want to be fed. Engage with positive posts, and your feed will be far lovelier to read.
As much as we want the platforms to take care of us, we as participants on these platforms must hold ourselves personally responsible.
I don’t post about politics or anything controversial, but one time I posted about this cute little man, living in some far away snowy country, and he knitted sweaters for penguins. I was so caught up in the cuteness of it all, I didn’t check to see if the story was real. Later I found out it was not. It made me feel a bit silly, but that was also a big lesson for me. I started checking in with Snopes more often!
Yes, I do believe the platforms should protect us from false information, but we shouldn’t expect them to babysit. In the end it’s up to you to be responsible and not spread anything harmful or false.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I would create PSAs about proper online behavior and post these guidelines everywhere. I’d send out reminders to all users, that the platforms should be a safe place for people to enjoy friendships, support others, and engage in conversations. I’d highlight stories about how some posts have harmed others, as well as stories about how some posts helped others.
When I was in London last year, we would often see posted reminders about being kind and courteous on public transportation. My company manages a Facebook group with more than 30k members, and we are always reminding the members that the group is a safe and supportive place. This really does help keep the drama at bay.
Just like children are taught to call out bullies on the playground, we should take note and call out bullies on platforms. For example, if you see a Facebook post or comment that is out of line, click on the three dots (to the top right of a post, to the right of a comment) and report it. The other platforms offer an opportunity to report as well. It’s pretty simple to do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have 2 visuals I often share; both are very much in alignment with how I live life.
One shows a circle titled “Your comfort zone,” outside of that circle is a larger circle titled “Where the magic happens.” I love this visual because it reminds me if I stay in my comfort zone, I will never realize all I am and all I can accomplish. By venturing outside my comfort zone, I can experience the magical fullness of life.
My other favorite shows two characters, one character is asking the other character, “Where did you find that? I’ve been searching for it everywhere.” The other character is holding a jar labeled “Happiness”. And this character’s answer is “I created it myself.” This visual reminds me that we make our own happiness. Of course, I have times of sadness, but I don’t wallow in it. I recognize it, give myself time to process it, and then become grateful for the lessons so I can get back to happy.
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 🙂
Elon Musk. I am fascinated with him — he dreams so big. I imagine he sees possibilities and potential where others see boundaries and blocks. I want to be more like Elon — focused on what can be, then figure out the way to get there.
Also, as the Co-Founder and License Holder of TEDxStLouis, I would really like Elon to work with me to get the license for TEDxMars. We could then hold the first TEDx conference on another planet. Look at me dreaming big over here!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!