Monica Lewinsky's self-described campaign to end cyber-bullying began with a small act of courage.
The long-ago White House intern signed up for the hugely popular, but often vitriolic, medium on Monday just a short while before she gave a speech at a Forbes summit in which she described herself as "Patient Zero" of the Internet shaming age.
According to a write-up on the magazine's website, Lewinsky described the public humiliation she suffered during the endless coverage and investigations of her affair with President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment more than 15 years ago. She talked about her "love" for Clinton at the time and reportedly teared up in recalling the shame of being, for a time, one of the most infamous young women in the world.
Lewinsky, now 41, said she was "the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”
“There was no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram back then. But there were gossip, news, and entertainment websites replete with comment sections and emails which could be forwarded. Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial up. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly ‘social media’.”
Lewinsky crept back into the public eye earlier this year with a piece in Vanity Fair in which she wrote about the Clinton affair and the difficulty she has had in finding a job. In the speech on Monday, she began by saying, "My name is Monica Lewinsky, although I've often been advised to change it."
Now she wants to start "a cultural revolution" against the kind of treatment she endured that is even more prevalent in the era of social media.
“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”
In joining Twitter, Lewinsky appears ready to play on the same field as the bullies she is trying to combat. Her introduction, however, was a bit halting.
excited (and nervous) to speak to #Under30Summit— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 20, 2014
If nothing else, Lewinsky has demonstrated that all these years later, she can still command an audience. Within three hours of her first tweet, she had more than 14,000 followers, and the count was growing by the minute.