These comments never go away. When someone bothers you in person you can walk away, and avoid them. Sure you can turn off your phone but as soon as you log back on everything is there and it’s there forever. People usually don’t gang up on you in real life because there are repercussions to that, but not online.
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 Ava Louise, a bonafide reality TV actress, hip hop artist, and influencer. She made a name for herself when she made a controversial appearance on The Dr. Phil Show in February 2019. The episode grossed over 4 million hits on YouTube and landed her appearances on Viceland and The Ryan Trahan Show. Louise’s social media has made her a person of interest in the media recently, having recently been talked about in No Jumper, The Hollywood Fix, and HollywoodLife. Additionally, she has been a conversation subject among popular YouTubers including Logan Paul and Trisha Paytas. Her social media following has skyrocketed above 200K in the past year, helping her achieve multiple brand deals and endorsements. In 2020, she has more reality appearances planned as well as music scheduled to be released.
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?
Ioriginally started gaining a following on social media during my senior year of high school. I was initially just a “local celebrity” of sorts. My following grew throughout college: I was originally just a normal student with a boyfriend in a fraternity who prioritized class and friends over social media and notoriety, and my following was more than the average person but still small. I decided to capitalize on the idea of social media fame and that’s why I went on Dr. Phil. I had the intention of going viral and starting a career off of going viral, which is exactly what I’ve done since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I got to meet the entire Smith family, including Will and Jada. It was for a show that never aired but it was probably the coolest experience I’ve had so far.
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 thought to make a rap song was a good idea, but I realized I have no musical talent whatsoever. It was embarrassing until the song went viral on TikTok. So I guess it worked out in the end.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently focused on finding more opportunities in television and growing my own YouTube channel. I want to help people by making them laugh.
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?
Every single time I go viral, whether it be due to a television appearance or a scandal, I get bullied. People who aren’t internet-famous will never understand what it’s like being flooded with thousands of tweets and comments, of people just degrading you. It’s awful, I’d describe it almost as a high because at first there’s a rush from people paying attention to you, then there’s a comedown as all the negative comments get overwhelming.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I force myself to go to the gym and leave my house. All of that causes a bit of anxiety though because you never know what people in real life are thinking as well, but 9 times out of 10 someone doesn’t have the guts to say what they’d type online to your face. The feeling stays with me and you can never really shake it.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
I’ve never commented anything harsh unless it was in defensive of myself or a friend because then it’s warranted. I’ve never felt the need to randomly call someone a mean name or tell someone to die just because they’re famous online. I think those who do that have mental issues.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
I’ve never made a harsh comment for no reason, so no regrets. I’ve only ever dragged someone because of something personal.
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?
It feels like being trapped. There’s an overwhelming stimulus that leads to anxiety and depression. I’ve had full anxiety attacks over what has been said about me online and I’m not even an anxious person in general. All of my anxiety has been created by what people type about me. It’s always a scary thing too because you never know if a death threat is credible, or if someone really is going to leak your address or your phone number. I’ve had people post my address and call for hits on me and my family all over a viral meme of me. It may seem funny to people on the outside, but you have to take those things seriously.
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 worse for sure because these comments never go away. When someone bothers you in person you can walk away, and avoid them. Sure you can turn off your phone but as soon as you log back on everything is there and it’s there forever. People usually don’t gang up on you in real life because there are repercussions to that, but not online.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
I was not prepared for the hate I was going to experience the first time I went viral, so I didn’t handle it well. I had a “Britney 2007” moment and broke down mentally for a while before spending a few months depressed. I didn’t leave my bed for a month and isolated myself socially. I had a problem discerning what people in real life thought versus what people online said so I developed some social anxiety. I overcame it with time and now I’m better prepared for trolls and handle it like a champ, but some people don’t and they end up taking their life.
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?
The main reason is that it’s easy to be anyone you want when you’re hiding behind a screen, there’s no one judging or controlling you when you’re scrolling on your phone typing. It’s also possible to be completely anonymous so people aren’t scared of repercussions. Also, with likes and retweets, people feel a false sense of importance and think if their hateful comment gets enough likes, they’re in the right.
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?
Be funny but with good intentions. Don’t spread information that harms people (like someone’s address, or naked pictures). Avoid death threats, understand there’s a real person behind the profile, and know there are two sides to every story you read about or see on drama channels.
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?
I believe so, but just as there are harassment laws in place in society I believe that there should be implications for online harassment and that social platforms should police that themselves.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I think that there should be flags on hateful comments, especially repetitive ones coming from the same user. I’ve had online stalkers who will comment hateful things on every single one of my posts, or DM me consistently, and by consistently I mean multiple times a day, every day. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter should have in-place algorithms that catch online trolls.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a specific quote, but personally what’s helped me through all this online banter is to take the hate constructively and use it to motivate you to be better.
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 🙂
Paris Hilton. She’s iconic.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My Instagram is @avalouiise and my twitter is @realavalouiise
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!