Catching Up with Formula One Driver and Cybersmile Ambassador Nicholas Latifi to Discuss Life Online
Author: SCD Team
June 17, 2022
What is your favorite social media platform and why?
Instagram is great because of the immediacy of it. Pretty much wherever you are, it’s simple to put up a post or a story that captures the moment and everyone can see it in a flash. There’s always a high turnover of stories and news from people I follow, so I find it a good way to keep up with what’s going on.
Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?
Used in the right way, social media is really beneficial. It allows people to keep in touch, stay connected and up-to-date with family and friends. It lets people like me communicate with my supporters, and have two-way conversations, which is great and something we never used to be able to do. Nowadays we can all connect with the celebrities or sports people we’re interested in. And in that sense it’s great. But then of course it can be a curse if people use it in the wrong way. Like using it as a platform to be abusive to somebody else. Blessing or a curse? It can be both.
Have you ever been personally targeted with online abuse?
Yes I have. And I know I’m not alone. Sadly I think pretty much every competitor in high-level sport, or people in the public eye more generally, has been at the receiving end at one time or another.
How does it make you feel and how do you deal with it?
The time that made me sit up and take notice came after the championship’s final race in 2021 – when I crashed battling for a position in the closing laps. I kind of knew it would draw a lot of negative comments, but I was surprised when I saw just how abusive and threatening some of the posts were. Having worked in sport for many years, I’ve learned to deal with negative comments and criticism, so my first reaction was to let it pass, ignore it. But then I thought about how this sort of behavior could affect other people, ones who maybe weren’t able to ignore it, and that’s what made me go public with the abuse and call it out.
What message would you have for someone who thinks that abuse and harassment online ‘is just a joke’?
It would be interesting for them to be on the receiving end of it, and see what they think is a joke, because it can affect people very, very deeply. There are lots of horror stories out there. Receiving abuse that one person thinks is a joke can have terrible consequences. So actually, it’s never a joke.
What would you like to see done to reduce the amount of abuse online?
Education is really important. Firstly, to educate people on the steps they can take to protect themselves from the effects of unwanted comments and abuse online. Secondly, to understand their own responsibilities when using social media and to consider the consequences of their actions. Using social media requires people to be responsible, and to think about what they’re typing before they hit the keyboard.
From a platform point of view I think we need to look again at accountability, and having proper sanctions for people who go over the line. Users should know that if they abuse social media and end up posting something which is particularly offensive or hurtful, whether it’s racist, homophobic, whatever, that they could actually end up in serious trouble.
What advice would you give to somebody being bullied or abused online?
Above all, you should realize that the people who feel the need to spread negativity by writing or spreading abusive posts are the people whose opinion matters the least. It’s important to remember that – although I appreciate it’s easier said than done…
In terms of advice, first of all I’d say speak up and tell somebody about it. It could be anybody – mom, dad, brother, sister, friend – it doesn’t matter, but tell somebody so you’re not going through this alone. Then you can work out a strategy to try and overcome the situation. First stop for me would be the fantastic interactive guides on the Cybersmile website. They’re full of useful advice and they’ll help get you out of a sticky situation.
What would you say to anybody who is anxious about pursuing their dreams for fear of ridicule and abuse?
This is a very simple one: never let anybody tell you you can’t do something. Yes, you can. I’m living proof of somebody who had a dream and pursued it. You can too.
Do you have a positive mantra or saying that you use to motivate yourself?
Not really. But one of the valuable things I’ve learned is to focus only on the things that are in my control – again, sometimes easier said than done!
In 10 words or less, why is kindness important?
Because I’m a firm believer in treating others like you would like to be treated yourself. Too many words, sorry…
We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Nicholas for this interview and his ongoing support for our work as a Cybersmile ambassador!