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Nina Fern: “Bring spirituality into the equation”

Social media should not be social climbing. This mentality is just the worst mentality. Judging people by their followers is just ridiculous. If you like a company or person, follow them. Support them. Don’t not, because they don’t look good enough. I had the pleasure to meet Nina Fern, founder of The Highly — an earnest and engaging […]

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Social media should not be social climbing. This mentality is just the worst mentality. Judging people by their followers is just ridiculous. If you like a company or person, follow them. Support them. Don’t not, because they don’t look good enough.


I had the pleasure to meet Nina Fern, founder of The Highly — an earnest and engaging cannabis editorial. Nina chronicles the cannabis industry with a consistent macro theme of seeking high quality cannabis to weave into a self-help lifestyle — coupled with a consistent micro theme of extreme disliking for social media and how the two seem to constantly collide for Nina.


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 joined Instagram when I began my start-up, knowing there wasn’t much of a choice if I wanted this business. I felt modern living a life without social media. I strive to have a simple life and never wanted excess of anything — including friends, acquaintances and extra ways of finding me.

Right away, I saw how human behavior was being changed. It was created with a manipulative teen mindset. I was at my worst as a teen, so I know how it ends. And it’s no surprise how its ending now. It is crumbling. People are fatigued, bored and sick of being abused. And truly, they are not at their best having social media as a prominent part of their lifestyle.

Everything we’re taught to seek spiritually is the opposite of what we seek in social media for ‘success’.

The games you need to play to ‘get ahead’/beat the algorithm is really such a senseless way of being.

The way out is not easy either. There’s gonna be a lot of PTSD and much needed rewiring after this.

How we gave Mark Zuckerberg such power is beyond me. How we haven’t taken it back is also beyond me.

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

The most interesting thing happened this month. I began microdosing psilocybin in the fall. It seemed like a harmless thing to do. I’m very in touch with my body and intuitive medicine. A few weeks in, I noticed some negative effects so I stopped immediately. Imagine my shock, weeks after stopping, the negative effects spiraled into something horrific. Watching microdosing mushrooms being celebrated on social media is very hard to witness especially knowing how vulnerable people are these days. Had I not done the personal work my entire lifetime, I don’t know how I could have handled the psychological effects of this. I shared my experience through my newsletter and instagram. It seemed the socially responsible thing to do, although, admittedly awkward. I received many private messages from people who had similar experiences and in many cases worse. It opened my eyes to this other layer of social media issues we have. People are afraid to speak and to tell the whole truth. So with all of this connection we think we have, it’s really just an illusion.

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 mistakes are daily and still going strong. I have confidence two years from now I’ll find them funny and not so “Nina, not again” cringy. It’s always about miscommunication through these platforms. The lesson is take a step back and respond when you processed what you are responding to, instead of reacting.

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

Cannabis products are being developed. The ones I want to see — and hopefully a path to take my business offline.

I’m just beginning to talk about self-help and the reality of what that means. No one just becomes ‘enlightened’. It’s a long, never-ending journey. You can’t be in cannabis and not address these things. It’s all part of the same story.

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 and no

I’ve never been publicly shamed on social media but I have in real life. When I think of it happening on social media, meaning times 10000, it’s almost debilitating.

On the daily, communicating this way is a struggle. It’s a constant reading between the carefully orchestrated lines.You take a guess to what you are reading, but who really knows. How is your response received? Who even knows. The feeling it leaves me with is always uneasiness. And if we are really being real, it has the potential to be a blackmail machine. When I grew up, we never put anything in writing. This is a lot of trust for no one who has earned it. Having things living in a corrupted cloud is haunting.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

Exactly what I would do in real life — tell myself I have to get over it. My intention was correct. That’s all I can do at this point.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

Not that I know of or intentionally. The posts I regret are the ones that are reactionary. I worked my whole life to respond and not react. When the reaction comes I always question my mindset. But then again, that’s the intention of this machine.

Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it.

Since it was probably nice, it got the reaction out of me. I don’t react to much so a few hours later, I’ll think of it with a different tone, and it sounds so different suddenly. Of course I go straight to, “I should have… why didn’t I, how did I read that incorrectly…..earth swallow me now, block it out. Welcome back to high school!”

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?

My immediate feeling is I hate being exposed to something so hateful whether it’s about me or someone else. Why couldn’t modern critiques be laced with dignity and sensitivity? Who is this coward that now screwed with a life. It’s on google for friends and family to see. And why has this insensitive way become the way? It’s called slander and verbal abuse and it drags everyone down.

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

Online is worse. One it’s public, so right away the intention is very different. Online is not just an attack — it’s a shaming. In real life, I go off of intention and I can see that in someone’s eyes. People say dumb stuff all the time unintentionally. They shouldn’t be crucified over it. It’s called being human.

In real life, you have the opportunity to have a discussion or apologize. There’s a chance to make it right.

Online, not really. The end of many bad moments is an unfollow. I mean, how dismissive, utterly rude and childish.

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

Shame in general can hold you back a lifetime. It makes you feel unworthy and that spills into everything. When it’s online forever it’s much harder to move past it. This can mess with even the strongest minds. Especially the ‘perfectionists’ mind.

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 could be anything. Low self esteem, anger, ego, or simply, people who weren’t taught right from wrong. Which is why it is important not to take it personally. Easier said than done, I know. For as damaging as it is for the recipient, it’s even more damaging to the person doing it. They just don’t realize it yet. It’s one big implosion.

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. Treat people online like human beings that are in front of you, because they are in fact human beings. If they were in front of you what would you say? Or not say? If someone puts themselves out there in a big way, give them a nice comment. If it’s a photo of their kids, give them a heart, the kids may see. I just think of walking down the street and all of the people I know or sort of know, showcasing their thoughts. Don’t be the customer that browses the same store everyday and never says thank you on the way out. If you are deep in a serious conversation, don’t just leave without a backwards glance. Imagine doing that in real life? And lastly, if you don’t like someone, leave them alone.

2. Bring spirituality into the equation. I believe God is stronger than any algorithm. If it’s meant to go somewhere it will. There’s no need to lower yourself to silly social media games to get ahead. Those hashtags and extra words — they’re annoying. I have a small but strong following. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it did. That was with my posts not being shown, my ad account turned off, and barely a hashtag.

3.Remember, you are throwing out feelings. Check the temperature of the world. When everyone is echoing the same thing, DON’T. Bring something different to the table or leave it alone. My motto is useful, entertaining or nothing. Be disciplined in being quiet when the world says so.

4. Social media should not be social climbing. This mentality is just the worst mentality. Judging people by their followers is just ridiculous. If you like a company or person, follow them. Support them. Don’t not, because they don’t look good enough.

5. With social media there should be social responsibility. I have in the back of my mind that a 16 year old is watching because they probably are. And with that I am very mindful of social responsibility and setting a good example.

I am aware to tell the whole truth, not just one side, so people can make informed decisions, especially in the grey world of cannabis and psychedelics. That’s what will serve my readers. It’s an honor to have thousands of people watching. Throwing something out there that doesn’t serve them is not the right thing to do.

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?

In real life it’s called harassment and verbal assault. It should be against the law. And there’s the real problem. The mental illness machine came with no rules or laws because at the time it was made by children who don’t like rules. And clearly weren’t taught manners. I don’t know where the parents went….or our world leaders…

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

The simple quick fix would be to give it a warning label. Every time someone logs on they would see it.

Warning: Social media can cause mental illness. It can be addicting. You could be subject to attacks. News should be taken as propaganda. Nothing is private. You have no rights. If you are building a business, it can be shut down without reason or warning. If you find yourself suffering distress, please call your doctor immediately.

Then it’s in the people’s hands. Once upon a time I smoked cigarettes and there were warning labels. I still smoked, but I always knew the choice was mine. There was no denial in the risks. It changes the whole perspective.

Or plan B. Kill it and start again with the idea of ‘how would thoughtful people do this’? It’s so off track from anything socially acceptable.

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

It’s in God’s hands. I say it over and over and over. What else could 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 🙂

Snoop. Cannabis, money and music. The only uplifting conversations these days.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@thehighly

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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