In 1998, I was in elementary school. I hadn't had the dreaded sex ed class yet, but, thanks to my president at the time and his gal pal, I knew what a blow job was. This knowledge was exhaled to me in the same breath as my political education.
Having been influenced by public opinion, I was very disappointed in both Clinton and Lewinsky. I was aware of what they did, I had an opinion about what they did and, to be honest, I was craving more stories about what they did.
Of course, it wasn't my business at all; I was just some random American girl from the Midwest. But the world was talking about a sexy affair, and, as a member of the world's population, I was in on the conversation.
But after watching Monica Lewinsky's recent TED talk, I really wish I hadn't been.
"I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously," she said.
"This was not something that happened with regularity back then in 1998. And by 'this' I mean the stealing of people's private words, actions, conversations or photos, and then making them public. Public without consent, public without context and public without compassion."
Since the days of Lewinsky's media storm, due almost entirely to the advent of the Internet, too many people have been shamed, embarrassed and exposed for the sake of sleazy voyeurism. In fact, the Internet has made it easier than ever to publicize the lowest points of so many lives.
The difference between recent stories of shaming and the Lewinsky scandal is that we now have a word for it in our lexicon. Monica Lewinsky was the first person to ever be cyberbullied.
It might be important to note that the comments on Lewinsky's TED Talk were disabled from being posted on YouTube. It's a poignant and bittersweet symbol of Lewinsky regaining control of her own narrative — despite the digital era we live in and all of its implications.
Now, as an adult, I look back on the 90s with nostalgia. I do long for simpler times when embarrassment was temporary and cruelty didn't have the luxury of being spread anonymously from behind a computer monitor by "virtual stone-throwers."
Lewinsky explained, solemnly, that our world needs a cultural revolution.
"Online, we've got an empathy crisis," she said. "We need to return to a long held value of compassion."
She quoted researcher Brené Brown who said,
"Shame cannot survive empathy."
It's been 17 years since Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton made reputation-destroying mistakes that became more public than pretty much anything that happened before them. But Lewinsky urges you to take a walk in somebody else's headline. We might be living in a "culture of humiliation," but we also live in an era that is conducive for one viral video to change the minds of millions.
I'm kind of hoping this one succeeds at doing that.