…It is far worse because in real life you can defend yourself or ignore and at the very least you get some accountability and is a bit more private. The online attacks are public and make it worse for the image of the person being attacked as if now he or she has to attack back not only the person who started it but everyone else who continued it just to be part of the conversation.
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 Nikoleta Morales.
Nikoleta is an award-winning writer, journalist, publicist, model and actress based in Chicago with passion for entertainment, hiking, and travel. She is the Treasurer for IWPA and currently accepted a position as an Associate Editor for Community Media Group. She was the Managing Editor of Extra Newspaper in Chicago for 2012–14. She has also written for several publications in the US and abroad, such as BG Voice, the Daily Herald, Extra, Lawndale News, Chicago Tribune, among others. She has covered the 2019 Oscars, 2019 Sundance Film Festival and recently won two national awards for her entertainment blog and FF2 Media feature story. She writes for FF2 Media, Lawndale News, Cultured Focus Magazine and Montana Press. She won the 2019 Miss Infinity Chicago Faces of Global Change pageant organized by Miss Infinity International Non-Profit Organization. Nikoleta’s niche, however, is entertainment. She has interviewed people from all walks of life from the local communities to politicians to celebrities like Paul Chavez (Cesar Chavez son), Martin Luther King III, President of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Gabriel Iglesias, Marlon Wayans, Marc Anthony, Ana Ortiz, Jaime Camil, Il Volo, Rob Schneider, Chris Kattan, Mario Lopez, Anna Faris, Kellan Lutz, Mike Tyson, Messi, Carolina Herrera, Holly Holm, Jason Derulo, Paula Abdul, Blondie, among others. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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 came to the US at the age of 15 all by myself to chase the American Dream. I am currently 34 and still chasing it (haha). I am an entertainment journalist, publicist, editor, and so many other things, among being a mother. I am also a celebrity influencer.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I would say meeting all the celebrities I did. But the one that stands out the most is covering the 2019 Oscars for the first time. It was a dream come true!
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?
I made many mistakes. I can’t think of what was the first one I did but what I learned is that it is ok to make mistakes and to learn from them as long as you don’t repeat them. I learned that you have to help others along the way and be your best self no matter what, and most importantly to never give up!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes I am working on a lot of things simultaneously. I currently accepted a position as an Associate Editor and I am also working as a coach and PR professional, among many other things while being an influencer.
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?
Yes, I have. It happened after a bad break up and the person in question decided to get back at me, he decided to publicly shame me and thought this can hurt my career. As a result, I had to block him but it was very unpleasant. It was a way to hurt me and it was personal. I understand people get hurt but to use Social Media to shame and hurt one’s livelihood is simply wrong.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I forgave and kept going. Now is just a distant memory in the past. Luckily in this fast-paced world with so much information the past becomes easy to forget.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
Yes! Unfortunately, as humans, we have strong emotions and a lot of people, including myself, have made the mistake to use Social Media as a therapist and forget the power that it has and its true purpose. As soon as I confessed my true feelings I deleted the post and learned that Social Media should be used only for good and as a business and not to share too much information, especially when you are dealing with other people. It is something I learned and I advise others not to use Social Media as a confession tool but rather a tool for positive change. You never know who will see it and how it may affect others.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
It was out of strong feelings, whether anger, hurt, pain…but feelings are temporary and what you post can hurt others permanently. I posted my feelings, many people saw it and questioned me about it and it became a mess, which I had to clean. It was easier just to keep it to myself and wait till the feelings went away or just write it privately on a piece of paper instead of automatically write it on Social Media, which is what many people do. The power of social media is incredible and shouldn’t be misused in such a way!
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?
Yes, many people think no one reads them but many know exactly what they are doing and are trying to hurt others. We live in a society of haters, wannabes, etc and sometimes people tend to forget that every word has an effect and the person on the receiving end may be suffering and one wrong comment can push them to the edge. Always be mindful of what you say and think if you don’t want others to say it to you! This is cyberbullying and just like any other form of bullying is wrong and shouldn’t be done! The worst part is that the person on the receiving end can’t defend himself or herself and shouldn’t because of unnecessary criticism.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
It is far worse because in real life you can defend yourself or ignore and at the very least you get some accountability and is a bit more private. The online attacks are public and make it worse for the image of the person being attacked as if now he or she has to attack back not only the person who started it but everyone else who continued it just to be part of the conversation.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
Low self-esteem, suicide, isolation, among many other awful things. It is scary!
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?
Simply because in the “online” world you can somehow get away with it. It is easier to say it without a face to face interaction, a real face attached to it and having to stand up to what you say. In the online world, you simply throw words randomly without thinking and without accountability that exists in the face to face interactions, as if somehow is excused because it is “online.” Some say it doesn’t matter as much because it didn’t happen in real life but it does, just as much and it did happen online. Something has to change with that mentality!
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 would love to influence a more open, cohesive and positive online space for all, which requires kindness and understanding! The 5 things I recommend people do is 1. Think before you write!; 2. Always have other people in mind when you write; 3. Think of how you would feel if someone said that to you; 4. Try to be a positive example for others and 5. Be kind!
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?
This is a very deep question that can take a long time to answer. Simply put it the First Amendment gave the right to journalists like myself the freedom to say and seek the truth, which was meant to be in the best interest of the public but today this freedom is taken to another level where it hurts others and there is no filter. I think there should be some sort of censorship in Social Media as the Freedom of Speech was meant for the greater good, not for the greater destruction of mankind, simply put! As people say, with great power, comes great responsibility and we have the great power of the online space so let’s be more responsible with it!
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I would create a code that disables any words that are harmful and hurtful. I would have a list of all the words that can be used to harm others and once someone uses them this code will somehow prevent them from posting it…I think this is one of the ways to fight this problem in the online attack epidemic!
I have many favorite quotes but the one that I simply live by is that “In order to get to the tip of the iceberg you have to experience its coldness by yourself first,” which is a quote I wrote at the age of 18 referring to the cold bitter life we live and how there is no way around it if you want to make it to the top.
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 🙂
There are a few leaders I would love to have breakfast with and discuss my ideas for positivity and change! If I am lucky enough and they read it I would love to sit down with Ellen, Oprah, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, among other celebrity influencers I follow and admire their work. I think they are inspiring and are making a great change in the world. I would love to talk to them in person. I love JLO’s recent achievements and her promotion of balance between family and career and her successful life as a woman of color. She is an inspiration to all and the way she looks at 50 is incredible! Who wouldn’t want to look like that? Let’s all inspire one another like that and do good, more good in this world!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!