Almost twenty years ago, a college graduate named Monica Lewinsky was hired to work as an intern at the White House.
Today, her name is almost synonymous with that place and the man who then occupied the office, Bill Clinton. Having largely been absent from the public eye in the two decades in-between, though, Ms. Lewinsky is back.
Later this month, she will give a TED Talk at their Vancouver “Truth or Dare” meeting. This follows a speech she gave last year at Forbes Under 30 Summit, where she called herself “Patient Zero” for our current viral culture.
“Lewinsky’s remarks will focus on making ‘a safer and more compassionate social media environment, drawing from her unique experiences at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998,'” according to CNN.
In June of 2014, Ms. Lewinsky wrote an essay about her experiences post-scandal for Vanity Fair. She talked about how the internet has made her once-unique situation — going rapidly from private citizen to public pariah — more commonplace than not.
We can tweet a revolution in the streets or chronicle achievements large and small. But we’re also caught in a feedback loop of defame and shame, one in which we have become both perps and victims. We may not have become a crueler society—although it sure feels as if we have—but the Internet has seismically shifted the tone of our interactions. The ease, the speed, and the distance that our electronic devices afford us can also make us colder, more glib, and less concerned about the consequences of our pranks and prejudice. Having lived humiliation in the most intimate possible way, I marvel at how willingly we have all signed on to this new way of being.
With Hillary Clinton poised to run for President, it’s likely Monica Lewinsky’s name would have been brought back into the national conversation again anyway.
Yet, after two decades of trying to escape it, she seems to be wresting control of the spotlight for herself.
Front image via screengrab