Fiona Lucas from iRespect Online

Fiona Lucas from iRespect Online


How did you become involved in the cause/issues? What made you passionate about them?

There are so many factors and paths in my life that have made me passionate about the way we engage with each other. I experienced bullying as a child at school and then later in relationships and the workplace. Bullies are everywhere although many do not know that they are doing it. Many of the negative experiences in my life I can trace to respect – lack of respect for others from some, and sometimes lack of respect for myself – putting myself too far down the chain of importance. I now see that when we do that, we expose ourselves to greater risk.

Through my previous career in schools the issues of bullying in the playground have always been an area of awareness, but the impact of what was happening online came to the fore when I started to work in the area of social media. I started to see more and more cases of young people missing out on jobs because their online presence did not match the ideals of a prospective employer. This was really highlighted when I found out about a lovely young girl who did very well at university, but missed out on a job with a top level law form because their background search uncovered photographs which were unbecoming to the conservative reputation of the firm.

I have always been someone passionate about helping others to grow and equally passionate about ethics and transparency and the online environment continually was showing me that there are some real gaps in the way we are engaging online which often had damaging results. It’s not just children either, its adults and it’s businesses failing to understand the online environment.

Seeing friends get into arguments online, over games was another turning point. Everytime I hear of another cyber-bullying story or worse still, a young life lost, tipped over the edge because of thoughtless comments made by others who have not understood the power of their words, or the images they have sent; it has made me more determined to spread awareness about the need for us to make things better online.

It is a global issue because we are so connected that we must ensure that children (all of us actually) everywhere have the tools to understand how to relate to each other.

This is not about censorship, in fact it’s about managing our freedoms If we do not take this on board then I am concerned that legislation and laws will impact upon such rights – we just have to learn the best ways and places to discuss more sensitive topics online, and develop skills to allow us to manage conversations, and participate in debate, rather than degenerate into arguments, abuse and name calling. We need to stand up and be heard about what we determine is acceptable online where our children are concerned, and not be bystanders. When the social media mirror breaks, it can be a lot more than 7 years of bad luck!

What is the biggest lesson blogging has taught you about yourself?

That is it OK to be me and that my opinion has value to others. We often spend our lives comparing ourselves to others or worrying if what we are doing is good enough. Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean others are. Then I realised that there is nothing wrong with that, I know that the message I have is important so I shouldn’t not tell it, just because some may not agree.

Blogging provides me the ideal way to get my thoughts and ideas out there, and it doesn’t matter if only one person is helped by that, that is one person whose life has been improved. My aim to provoke thought and discussion, my views are not prescriptive because we are all individuals, but if I can make people think about the issues on a deeper level, then I can inspire change.

Tell Mamamia readers about iRespect Online. What are the big issues? Why should they care?

My big why is all about empowering our children to manage their online lives safely and creating an outlook of respect and responsibility for how they engage with others. Our kids are creating skeletons that never actually get put in the closet, and if they do there’s a huge chance that door won’t stay shut for long. There are so many issues coming to light as the use of smart technology and access to the internet grows.

Cyberbullying, cyberstalking, reputations in tatters due to out of control information online and poor social media etiquette are just the tip of the iceberg. Not understanding how to engage online and how the things we write and share online might be perceived by others, raises issues which may not impact right now; but may affect our children’s careers and personal life in the future. Small things can become very big things when they can be shared far and wide in a matter of minutes and then are “never forgotten”.

At the worst end of the scale these problems may affect our children enough that they become depressed, withdrawn and even commit suicide. In fact it’s not just children affected, but many adults also. These are all problems associated with the rapid growth of technology allowing access to the world anytime, anywhere, but with very limited guidance.

It is vital that we, as parents, (in fact everyone), understands the importance of getting it right online so that we can address these issues. I know that most people when asked do care. Many are fearful of the online world, and feel that the digital divide has increased to a point where parents feel they have been left behind . It seems that their children, even very young children, understand the new technologies in communications better than they do, and therefore we tend to allow the children to take the lead.

I believe that the internet and social media platforms actually can provide a positive environment of growth and enable vibrant and supportive communities to flourish, but the technology and access have grown faster than awareness and so we need to move to improve the standards of engagement.

iRespectOnline provides education, training, information and workshops to schools and parent bodies to illustrate the point that although our children adapt well and use technology well, most DO NOT understand the possible consequences of what they do online, or are simply too young, without life experience to help guide them.

Many adults also do not understand the consequences. It is so easy to forget that what we do online is necessarily just for our audience of true friends, but can be shared from one friend to another to another, or if publicly posted may be shared with the world. Sadly It’s not just our children’s reputations either. What happens online can affect our own or that of our business too.

iRespectOnline was created to help to close the digital divide between parents and their children and to bring to the fore the need for us to manage the way we engage online. I have created the 4Rs of reputation as a means to help us to understand the impact of what we do online and provide an easy framework for making decisions with a fundamental value of respect underlining the framework.

My new book “Futureproof Your Kids” has been written to provide a means to empower parents not to fear the internet and not to be complacent when it comes to their children being online. It is guide which aims to make parents think about the issues and how their own children are interacting online, and provides for self reflection also.

How has the Internet impacted your cause? How is it helping bring awareness or action to the issues?

I guess its kind of a strange oxymoron in that the internet, as the means for which online communities etc exist is part of the problem, yet it is also a vital part of the solution. For it is via online mediums that we can most easily share and spread the message.

iRespectOnline is still very new and the internet is a vital part of being able to share my message across many mediums and reach a vast audience and also find other partners and bodies with aligning causes where we can both help each other. The internet, and blogging enables the building of community and meeting of minds on a scale never before seen. Although I am yet a small presence, I am strong and committed to creating change, and every day brings others who connect with my message, so I know it will grow.

I strongly believe in the positive benefits which online engagement can bring and it is so important to be able to bring a balance into the picture so that we seek a proactive solution embraced by internet users rather than resort to legislation, restrictions and banning.

Through my presence on the Internet, I am organically building a community and using various social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to encourage sharing of the message and awareness.

Guest blogging and sharing content with others and joining networks is vital as are sites like Mamamia because they highlight opinions and issues, often in a humorous way, but they get people engaged and talking. I am grateful and humbled that Mamamia found me and recognised the importance of my subject and I welcome new fans and partnerships to help me to grow iRespectOnline and make online a safer place to play.

What was your first job?

My first paid job I took because I wanted to leave school and Mum said I couldn’t unless I had a job. I actually worked in a knitting factory and had to catch 3 buses at some ungodly hour of the morning to get there on time. My job mostly consisted of carting big metal combs that made sleeve and waist bands, and were almost as big as I was. Hard yakka indeed! My childish idea that working would be glamorous was soon put straight! I lasted a month and had a new respect for people who work in manual jobs!

Is what you are doing now remotely like what your 16 year old self thought you would be? How has your career impacted on where you are now?

Hmmm.. my 10 year-old self thought I would look like Malibu Barbie and that David Cassidy wouldn’t mind the 13 year age difference and marry me.

My 16 year old self didn’t want to be a @#&$ secretary and go back to school to business college – but I’m so very glad she stopped sulking and listened to her parents! I had been bullied a bit at school from a young age as I wasn’t a well child and I didn’t have a lot of belief in my own ability. I left school at the end of year 11 (Form 5 it was then). I was not happy because I was not getting satisfaction from the jobs I was doing (graduated from factory to checkout chick).

Going to business college and achieving well with no bullying in sight was the beginning of change for me. When I really think about it though, I always believed that I had a purpose in life that was big and that I would work to bring good into the world. That probably sounds a bit “woo woo” for some, but it is true, it is what has driven me. That purpose gave me strength despite the fact that I made some poor personal choices along the way, but even from those I can find something good to draw on.

My career has been varied but I absolutely believe that for some of us we have to walk a path that is more difficult, in order to develop the skills we need to succeed. If I had not been bullied and had to face the challenges I have in my life, then I am not sure that I would be as driven as I am to make changes in the world. If I had not experienced hardship I would not have discovered my own inner strength.

I also don’t think at 16 you should be trying to find a life career – some children are drawn to one thing and aspire to that, but many do not, and we have the ability to continue to learn our entire lives, so why not try different careers? There is nothing worse than doing a job you don’t love!

What lesson did you learn the hard way?

There’s been a few, but being an eternal optimist helped me to keep going I’m sure. I think the hardest lesson that I learned was to not feel sorry for myself and to break away from being a “victim” of circumstances in my life. Even though I for many years didn’t think I actually saw myself as one, I realised later (actually not all that long ago) that I was letting bad experiences colour my existence. To accept that what happened was part of my journey for whatever reason and that I needed to then more forward and take back ownership of myself was the biggest and hardest lesson to learn. In business I’ve had to learn to get out of my own way!

Who inspires you?

My Dad – such a stoic man who has never let the ebbs and flows of life get him down. He accepts a situation and then moves on. He has always acted with such integrity and honesty and self discipline. He had a stroke last September and it changed him in some ways, but still he has come so far and worked hard to improve. He has accepted that the stroke has mean’t life has changed but that it’s not a reason for despair. Outside of family, I am inspired by those who place integrity high on their list of values.

How does social networking help you? What social networks do you use?

I adore social networking. I have been on facebook for around 5 years and found it to be much easier to keep in touch with friends and family than my old travel blog on my space was (gee I’d forgotten about that blog!). I first started blogging when I travelled to india to study international business as part of my studies. It was fun to write about what was happening).

I mostly use Facebook and my blog, although Twitter is now moving up the scale! Its hard to stick to 140 characters when you have lots to say! Although I don’t post there much I do have a Tumblr account in order to observe what goes on in that area and I have a YouTube channel that will develop but I am still really in start up mode and I’m practicing what I preach in regards to social media tactics and strategy – learn one area well before taking up another! I am also on Google+ but still learning about how best to use it in my own business. The hook-ups are good, but I find many users seem to autostream post after post and it gets a bit much. I’m very much about authentic engagement.

Pinterest is just gorgeous but I don’t get enough time on a personal level to play too much. Anything visual is so appealing.

Everyone has a favourite though, what is your favourite social  network?

I would have to say it’s still Facebook at the moment. I’ve used it personally for so long that being able to run my business page in the same platform was so appealing. I do like to keep my personal page more for the people in my life who I actually engage with socially and not just business, although it gets hard sometimes.

The reason is that I do love to share the funny position the cat slept in, or the amazing cake I made, or that delicious looking salad when I went out to lunch – not every lunch but a few of my friends and I are foodies and we like to tease each other with tantalising goodies. A personal page is, after all, a personal page and I respect others in business who also want to try and keep a space free – I think its important as part of that life balance to separate work from personal. My friends don’t want to read my business posts there – they can hit up the business pages or blog if they are interested. On Facebook the engagement is fun and it’s such a great platform for sharing information from other areas. I am watching for the next round of changes however as I’m a little wary of where it’s heading now that Facebook have to start making profits.

I’m starting to love Twitter more and more however and I think its because as you get busier, it seems a much quicker and easier way to share information and get quick updates. There are some pretty cool people out there to!

What are the tools of your trade? What helps you get your job done? 

Outlook Calendar, my iPhone, my laptop, my iPad, OneNote, Evernote, Dropbox, Bizzaboo, WordPress, gee the list could go on and on. I try new things out and then drop them if they are not easy to use. I do use both PC and Apple. Years of using the word suite makes it such a comfortable environment which I can work quickly in. I have a new surface pro because of that, but disappointed in the lack of apps available. I still also love to write notes on paper – eek!! 🙂

I do also have sprout social, and buffer but I prefer not to use autoposting. There are times when its necessary but I like trying to actually always be there.

Life balance is important. Do you take time-out from online or are always connected?

This one is so important to me – and I talk about it often and have written about it in my book. It is absolutely vital that we do take time out from our everyday work or from family duties. Everyone needs a break and to refresh – it helps us to come back energised and refocussed. I try to make sure I catch up regularly with friends but sometimes it is hard. With starting up iRespectOnline, writing my book and then helping care for my Dad who recently had a stroke, I actually almost “disappeared” socially for a while and I could feel it was not good for me. We are social creatures and company is important. Having new experiences and creating new memories for us to reflect on in later years is so healthy I believe and keep us interesting.

I don’t get to read as often as I would like and that is something I miss. When taking time out, I usually still have my phone with me, but I am making a much bigger effort to leave it in my handbag so that I can focus on the person I am with. It is strange how we have allowed our smartphones and iPads to creep into our everyday and I’m absolutely connected to my phone – but I am now understanding that when we connect to our phone we are disconnecting from the people around us, even if its only for a minute or two and I don’t think that is a good thing.

Most of my friends put the phones away after we check in. I do believe that when you are out with friends for a meal or to catch up, then you really should be focussing on that, but the important thing is to all agree. What I have noticed, as I am sure most readers have, is how often you see people sitting around a table in a restaurant with all of them texting and looking at their phones and not each other. We need to keep technology in the right place. A phone is not more important than a person, not ever. I am concerned about the effect on our young children who see everyone focused on these pieces of equipment and grow up feeling a second priority to them.

What is your favourite item of clothing and why?

(Are shoes clothing?.. cos I could just say shoes, shoes and shoes – because I do love them and have lots of them – and I really can’t tell you why!)

I love dressing up for parties but I don’t really have just one item that I love at the moment (other than shoes as I may already have mentioned ha ha). The closest would be a shirt I have that I know really suits my colouring and always makes me feel good.

What’s your personal motto?

What a great question – I think there are several internal rules I live by – but the one which is the most important to me is to stay true to myself and to hold the principles of ethics high. As Martin Luther King Jr once said: “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”

What is your favourite flavour of ice-cream?

I used to say vanilla with macadamias.. then I discovered that really naughty Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice-cream!

What is the first thing you bought with your first proper pay cheque?

A beautiful leather pair of high heels that I still have (now vintage). I’ve been buying shoes ever since!

If we looked in your handbag right now, what would we find?

Ok fess up time: Purse with too many receipts stuffed in it, Mobile phone, Mophie (portable phone charger) , reading glasses, red makeup purse (with my Arbonne lip glosses, concealer, mascara, brown eyeshadow, eyeliner and some brushes), eyedrops, a couple of pens, bandaids, small hairbrush, a couple of cashews (not sure how they got there), some hairpins, my ventolin with a hair tie around it, car keys, business cards, a train ticket from San Diego, some crumbs and linty stuff right down the bottom (i’m going to have to shake that out as I’m looking though), a copy of my book and a tin of mints.

If you were a super hero what would your power be?

Well I’d be the Mum to my super futurekids from my book! But in all seriousness I would want my power to be able to take away self doubt and empower others to believe in themselves. There would be no suicide when Super Fi came to the rescue.

I honestly believe that we all have the power to make our lives better – it is only when we look to someone else or something else for the “magic cure” that it fails. A someone or something can make your life even more enriched, but in the end, the most reliable person for you, should be you!


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