Learn when it’s time to unfollow, mute, block or log off! I have had to take the time to protect my peace by removing accounts that are not good for my peace. The more you do so the easier it gets to monitor who and what you interact with most. This will likely prevent you from feeling triggered or tempted by gossip, overload of stimulation and arguing 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 Sahmahrah Guillaume.
Sahmahrah “Marah G” Guillaume has recently released her first of many books to come entitled “You Bring Me Joy.” As a creatively inclined woman, she enjoys expressing herself through poetry, spoken word and dance as a form of therapy and to SPEAK LIFE and uplift others. Acting is another expressive art that she utilizes, as she enjoys living through characters and bringing their story real or fictitious to life. When she is not traveling the world and spreading joy as a Cruiseship Dancer Who Sings. She is using her content online to push the Speak Self-love movement, which she created to inspire millions of people to unapologetically love themselves and heal through literature, movement and holistic health.
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?
Yes, I grew up with a big heart and big dreams in Long Island, New York. I was named Sahmahrah, which means guarded by God with 9 letters to match my long 2 pound body. Growing up very skinny and smaller than the other children I stood out. I was shy and mostly meek unless I was dazzling on stage dancing or winning cheerleading competitions. I was talented in most things I did from soccer to track. Even with my attention avoiding disposition I was a winner. I won most of the awards at my dance school, my grades were great and my cheer squad was the reigning champions. When my mother died when I was 13 I felt like a loser. I lost what felt like my only connection to God, since she was a praying woman. Without her I didn’t stop winning those awards, I did however lose my drive and badly needed a break.
My family’s belief that my extracurricular activities shouldn’t stop due to her death cost me my emotional peace. I felt as if my feelings and deep need to grieve didn’t matter. No one let me stop dancing or cheering or going to school. These activities were more times I had to smile even though I felt the show was over. As I grew older and surpassed the pain, I kept listening to my support system to conform and started to push my dreams away. Soon I found myself working a great job with a brand new 3 series BMW and a hot boyfriend, yet I was emotionally bankrupt. I needed to get out of my job pronto, so I left Wall Street to dance with the cruise industry. I’ve been dreaming, traveling and exploring personal development ever since. In quarantine after a heated conversation, I was told “You know you could kill someone with your words.” That reminded me of how powerful words were and how I wanted to Speak Self-love and life unto others and spread joy. That helped to spark the creation of my recently published book “You Bring Me Joy: poems that inspire self-love, healing, purpose and joy.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In my line of work there is never a dull moment. I’d have to say the weeks before I left home for my first cruise contract holds one of the most interesting stories I can remember. A few years ago on my birthday I went to see a local church play. After a great show a beautiful stranger came up to me and said that God had told her I have a great purpose over my life and that my voice would liberate many people. I hadn’t been operating in my purpose yet, so I wasn’t used to dreaming just yet. I sarcastically answered back with a chuckle in disbelief because I was limited in my beliefs. I had no idea that I could do anything beyond dancing, which was the door opener to the rest of my talents. Back then I thought “I was just a dancer and I didn’t need to speak.” I think I’m starting to realize that she was right and that night she planted a seed in my mind that has been blooming ever since.
If she remembers me I hope she one day sees me living my best life!
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?
Yes, one of the funniest mistakes I’ve made when first starting my entertainment career, was improperly securing my hairpiece. It was a warm Bahamian night on my first cruiseship, and we were doing a headbanging rock show of all things. Hundreds of cheering guests and the adrenaline pumping from the rumbling introduction of Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” I didn’t do my usual securing, because I thought “It’ll be fine!” Boy was I wrong! I barely made it to the vocals before my long black banana clip ponytail went flying out of my head, leaving me with just a cornrow style and a very shocked look. My amazing dance partner Leme, who was also my manager threw it into the wing and kept me in step. I was so embarrassed and after that number finished, I immediately went searching through the wings for the hair piece and secured it for the rest of the show. The show must go on!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am working on an exciting new project. It’s still in the development phases, so I won’t say anything to spoil the surprise. I can say that I think it will amplify the message of self-love and boost confidence. A self-loved person is a happy person, and most people want to feel happy.
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?
No, I have not actually been publicly shamed on social media. I did however have an experience in a Facebook group where I posted a controversial view on what constitutes a real date, and had another member take it personally and give me push back. I felt like I needed to defend myself and the back and forth kept us in opposition for a few days. I ended up taking accountability for how my presentation may be perceived as being mean spirited and I decided to delete the post. It wasn’t a good feeling, and I realized that wasn’t the energy I wanted to set in motion into the world. I had to accept the tough truth that it was a waste of time attempting to mastermind in Facebook groups, instead of doing the inner work that was necessary and more effective in my self-love journey.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
In order to shake off that negative feeling I continued to send love in response to hate. I also took a break from that Facebook group in particular and did some self-analyzing and self-reflecting. I had to remember that I didn’t need to deal with that.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
Looking back on Facebook or MySpace I definitely had bossy comments towards friends. I don’t think I’ve had too much of a mean streak to have a harsh comment I can remember regretting. In my more recent use on social media I’ve been more intentional to spread joy or mind my own business.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
In my Highschool and younger days my attitude towards others reflected how others treated me.
I was around people who influenced me to be possessive and clicky, and I was truly a product of my environment and upbringing. My father was more commanding and serious, so at times I was bossy with friends or being bossed around. As I grew older, I spent more time alone and my mind and heart opened. I realized how important words can be and started to evolve my social media content around college. Looking back recently I regretted my bossy comments, because they weren’t an accurate reflection of who I am as a person, but rather my experiences at the time. My mother’s death and strict home life were strong influences in my need for controlling my social encounters.
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, the recipient of such hateful comments can feel deep embarrassment, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Some people feel as though the world is crashing down on them. This is especially true if the comments go viral and last for a long period of time.
The long term effects of the harsh criticism can be a source of anxiety and fear that prevent people from enjoying social media or creating content for work purposes.
Let me paint this picture for you. It’s as though the words jump out of the screen and chase you, corner you and then proceed to beat you. When you awake from the pain the words seem to have placed you in a cage of self-pity and self-hate, that replays the comments onto a screen with your eyes forced open and your mouth taped shut. Not fun!
Do you think a verbal online attack feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
I think the online attacks are worse, because of how they can grow into a monster of memes that may be screen shot and continuously circulated. You can forget what someone says once in the heat of an argument. The content online isn’t able to be monitored as quickly as it is evolving. Social media is a whole other beast.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
The long term effects can include many forms of anxiety, depression, eventual suicide or an over caution if not complete discontinuation of posting and communicating virtually.
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?
First let me say, I think it takes bravery and courage to spread love, and not many people are brave enough to do that. The reasons I have observed for why people tend to be meaner online include:
- Attention seeking — The ability to create a new persona and live a double life of fake confidence and importance
- Too much idle time — The temptation of jumping on the hate bandwagon and feeling bonded to others
- The infectious disease that is hate for others that stems from a hate for self, lack of self-love and scarcity mindset
- Ego boost; anyone can look like a saint when they point out the sins of others
- Bonus: Jealousy, envy or coveted feelings of entitlement to things they did not earn or know nothing about
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?
If I had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, I would suggest that they speak with love in response to hate. I’d also suggest that if they wouldn’t want someone to say it to them or their most important people or pet, not to say it to others. Here’s my list of “5 Things We Should Each Do To Help Make Social Media and The Internet A Kinder and More Tolerant”
- If you can’t be kind, say nothing at all! Even the most hateful content is posted by sensitive people that will likely have you holding anger towards a person who has the time to make your social media experience uncomfortable. If the only way you can think to respond is unkindly then stop. Even a misogynist can be responded to tastefully with proper assertion and wording. It may take an extra moment, but if it takes too long then maybe that’s a sign to either be more intentioned or save your fingers the work and move on. Most things don’t deserve your attention. The very opinionated people are looking to ruffle feathers and gain your precious attention.
- Not everything deserves a response. Keeping your own peace intact and responding to only love and not every hateful comment takes patience and confidence. Ego drives us into chaos and defensiveness against hateful and outlandish accusations. It is the hateful comments that can set us off into a tirad of comments we may regret. Sometimes you will need to take the high road when dealing with foolish people. After all you can’t silence a fool or change others opinions. If you can’t shut it down with style and grace then don’t give it your energy.
- Learn when it’s time to unfollow, mute, block or log off! I have had to take the time to protect my peace by removing accounts that are not good for my peace. The more you do so the easier it gets to monitor who and what you interact with most. This will likely prevent you from feeling triggered or tempted by gossip, overload of stimulation and arguing online.
- Report pages and know your limits! I used to simply delete or ignore those spam comments and block those follower boost pages. Now I take the extra step to report and update who can contact me via Direct Message for my peace of mind. This may also help someone else who is having a similar experience with a suspicious account. While I am not interested in reporting every page. I have seen a decrease in those pages since I’ve started reporting them.
- Use the features in your favor! Facebook and Instagram have amazing features to help you stay protected online. Instagram for example allows you to dictate who can reply to your story and comment on and share your posts. It is possible to have a cyber bully limited or free experience, as long as you are mindful that not everyone has the best intentions. A private page is also a great option that many people enjoy.
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?
From what I’ve witnessed Americans do have the right to say whatever they want. These private enterprises have however been using a fact checking tool and censorship for content they deem in violation to their rules. I do think that whoever owns the platform dictates the activity and in that case American’s rights are limited. Private social media enterprises have been exercising their right to censor content posted to their platforms. As a result other apps with different rules and restrictions have been circulating.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
That’s a great question, thank you for asking. If I had full control over Facebook and Twitter I would have a questionnaire pop up while typing certain trigger words and phrases before posting. This might discourage a person from continuously posting those hurtful attacks. I might also have more account suspensions based on the number of hurtful comments and posts from each account. This would be determined by a scanning system that checks each account for certain harmful phrases used hourly.
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 for this week is
“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside of us can do no harm”
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 🙂
That’s an easy one. I would love to have a meeting with Beyoncé, the Queen B herself. My reason is embedded in the following quote:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”
I see that she is the embodiment of that quote and her globally influential talents feeding the hearts, minds and lives of millions has been an amazing impact to witness. Like those in her fan base her songs have gotten me through some tough times. I’d love to one day have a similar legacy in entertainment as an inspiring singer, songwriter and actress like her. I understand the importance of surrounding myself with those who have been where I wish to explore, and I’m ready for a new mentor. In order to use all of my talents, I’d love to tap into my power how she has and to be in contact with a positive influence.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook fan page: Sahmahrah G
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!