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Natalie Franke: “Here Are 5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place”

On social media, I am an advocate for the importance of relationships. Not everyone buys into this idea, especially when I articulate my opinion that community is a more powerful business tool than competition. I’ve been critiqued a lot, especially in my early days. It can hurt to have someone criticize your entire life mission […]


On social media, I am an advocate for the importance of relationships. Not everyone buys into this idea, especially when I articulate my opinion that community is a more powerful business tool than competition. I’ve been critiqued a lot, especially in my early days. It can hurt to have someone criticize your entire life mission and experiences, but I try really hard to quiet the voices of doubt that can creep up as a result. I’ve learned that not everyone is going to feel inspired by what you have to say, but if there is one person who is impacted by it — that is enough. Today, I focus on the impact I can make rather than the criticism I may receive.


I had the pleasure to interview Natalie Franke . Natalie is the co-founder of the Rising Tide and the Head of Community at HoneyBook. Born out of her own 7-year journey as a freelance photographer, Natalie built the Rising Tide to give solopreneurs the resources and support they need to be successful in their business. She joined HoneyBook in 2015 following their acquisition of the Rising Tide and today leads a community of 76K+ creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Natalie has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, NPR, Bustle and others. She studied Visual Studies with a concentration in neuroscience and the psychology of seeing at the University of Pennsylvania.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a short recap of your “backstory” with us?

For seven years, I grew my own business as a freelance photographer. I absolutely loved capturing stories that documented the power of relationships, but this enthusiasm for relationships intensified the isolation I felt in own experience working as a solo business owner. I was determined to use this as inspiration to better understand the power of connection and danger of isolation. So I spent my weekends photographing weddings across the world, and weekdays researching, writing, speaking, and building community in every aspect of life.

In May 2015, I founded the Rising Tide Society (RTS) to give solopreneurs the resources and support they need to be successful in their business. I grew the group to 76,000 members in a year and a half. The RTS is a social group but we also meet monthly to network and connect online daily to share resources and support each others’ business journeys.

Shortly after, I was hired as the Head of Community at HoneyBook, a company providing solopreneurs with business management tools that helps them run the administrative side of their business, so they can focus on their craft. Today, we’re working together to help give solopreneurs and freelancers the community and resources necessary so they can succeed and spend more time doing what they love.

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

My career has been interestingly marked by ironies. They began to appear when I studied neuroscience in college, researching how our brains respond to human connection as well as why the brain is equipped with empathy and powered by a desire to thrive in community.

After years researching and building my own community, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. I never quite realized the full power of community until I needed it most. Through this journey, I realized the importance of investing in a community that could support you during the highs and lows. I experienced the power of relationships deeper than ever before and am focused on living to motivate others to invest in relationships deeper.

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?

My career began as a freelance wedding photographer. I was known to go above and beyond for my couples, which occasionally led me into harrowing — but hilarious — situations.

I’ll do anything for the right photo. For starters, there have been numerous times I found myself in deep trouble for trespassing while taking engagement photos. Once I was photographing one couple near the Chesapeake Bay and I was so focused on getting the right photo I waded straight into the bay that ended in jellyfish sting. Another time during a wedding I hopped on top of a folding chair to get a higher angle on photographing the dance floor — that time, I ended up toppling right on top of the guests!

While these situations have been sticky, they’ve made great stories and resulted in great memories captured for the couple. I’ve learned that you have to take risks every single day — sometimes situations don’t turn out how you expect, but you learn and grow from these experiences.

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

Right now I’m excited about a project called UPWRD. It came after we started observing a gap in the industry for established business owner education. Many entrepreneurs we knew at HoneyBook and The Rising Tide were expressing a desire to learn new skills. Even though these individuals were successful already, they wanted a way to create continued growth.

UPWRD is a business accelerator program that empowers and facilitates business growth for established entrepreneurs. What we’re most excited about is our commitment to leverage alumni cohort leaders to support future cohorts. Our vision is for the program to create a self-sustaining ecosystem of entrepreneurial education — raising the tide for all entrepreneurs in the process.

Ok, super. 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 and what you did to shake off the feeling?

On social media, I am an advocate for the importance of relationships. Not everyone buys into this idea, especially when I articulate my opinion that community is a more powerful business tool than competition. I’ve been critiqued a lot, especially in my early days.

It can hurt to have someone criticize your entire life mission and experiences, but I try really hard to quiet the voices of doubt that can creep up as a result. I’ve learned that not everyone is going to feel inspired by what you have to say, but if there is one person who is impacted by it — that is enough. Today, I focus on the impact I can make rather than the criticism I may receive.

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

What’s challenging about arguments on the internet is that you cannot connect with their emotions like you would in-person. Online, you don’t see the expressions on the recipients face or their energy like you would if they were standing in front of you, so the ability to empathize is reduced. Because of this, it can take longer to resolve or move past an attack on the internet because you aren’t able to connect with them on a personal level.

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

Being shamed online is deeply personal trauma. As a result of the additional factors weighing into everyone’s life — family support, friendships etc. — everyone copes in different ways.

If you find yourself being attacked online, the best thing you can do is to reconnect with the real world around you and to remember that life does not begin and end in the virtual space. Your support network, your community has the power to help you recover from those experiences.

Sometimes people who harass others online would never say these things in real life. Can you give a few reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people?

Social media often brings out the worst in people because there’s a lack of ability to emphasize on a deeper level (check it out Dr. Larry Rosen’s research here). Plus, studies also show that the more time you spend on social media, the more socially isolated you begin to feel, which fuels our insecurities, and in turn, tends to bring out the worst in us, pushing our own self-doubt onto others.

Despite the reasons why social media can bring out the worst in us — I believe it also holds so much promise for positivity. When you see someone being attacked on social media, you will also see people coming to their defense. While it’s easy to focus on the negative, I think we should also look for the ways that virtual networks present an opportunity for us to support one another.

Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do we have a right to say whatever we want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?

It is damaging to espouse hate in any forum — it threatens our social health and the fabric of our society. There is a distinct difference, however, between disagreeing with someone’s opinion and threatening their physical or mental wellbeing.

At HoneyBook and The Rising Tide, we believe in the importance of sharing disagreements with respect. To dissolve unhealthy banter, our members have made a comment to resist commenting on a thread if there seems to be unnecessary harassment. Healthy debates are natural, but kindness is our priority. Our values are to treat one another with high regard and respect, and assume the best intent.

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

Firstly, I would reduce bot activity. I believe social media is meant to be a place for people to connect and the first start to encouraging human empathy is to reduce manipulations that often come from bot activity, if one bot ‘says’ something hurtful, it opens the door for others to follow.

I also believe that social media platforms have a responsibility to bring clarity around issues that could have an impact on large amounts of people.

In that same vein, I would focus on educating users on how to combat bullying and harassment online, and the repercussions of that behavior. I would also provide transparency into how these platforms are protecting users from this type of behavior.

What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”?

  1. Treat others how you want to be treated. The first step to making the internet a kinder place is being kind to those you meet there. Show some love, say hello.
  2. Be true to yourself and value this in others. Create and share content that resonates with who you are and what you stand for. Be your authentic self, people want to get to know the real you. Respect this attribute in others as well — listen to their opinions and try to understand their view point before jumping in with your own. We have a lot that we can learn from one another.
  3. Use your platform to elevate other voices. If you have one follower, you are an influencer. So use your influence for good. Use your platforms to elevate the voices of others by featuring their content, highlighting them, or reposting their content (with permission, of course!)
  4. Celebrate the accomplishments of others — be a cheerleader! Use your time on social media to focus on highlighting the good that exists online. Cheer others on and celebrate their accomplishments by engaging with their good work.
  5. Take a break. The most important moments in your life happen off-screen so make time to step away and be present. Sometimes all you need is a little space to be reminded that your value isn’t based on your follower count (and neither is anyone else’s).

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

My favorite “Life Lesson” quote helped inspire me on my journey to build community. It is by Maya Angelou and states, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I started Rising Tide as a community for solopreneurs because I was feeling loneliness and isolation during my own journey as a freelancer. I asked myself, “Where do you have the opportunity to leave those positive impressions and connections in your daily life? Your community.”

I was determined to bring others feelings of warmth and togetherness. During Rising Tide events, I know that people won’t remember every word or activity, but they will never forget the way this community made them feel. Being supported, empowered, and surrounded by like-minded souls is priceless. It has the potential to change the trajectory of their entire life and business.

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?

Brené Brown, I’m deeply inspired by her ability to combine research and emotional intelligence to inspire!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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