I’ve seen this a lot over the past few days where authors have shut down entire parts of their social networks because of cyber bullying and just overwhelming harassment. It’s ridiculous that these authors have had to come this far and take this step to avoid these people, for ANYONE to have to do these steps. And I know bullying happens on both sides, sometimes I’ve heard of authors harassing reviewers for not leaving that high star review or just leaving a lower rating and no review as soon as its posted. These by far are no isolated incidents, its becoming out of control and just needs to stop. Whatever happened to the if you can’t say anything nice philosophy? Have we really gone that far out that it doesn’t apply anymore? I don’t think so but this behavior has become so much the norm that it’s hard to see it otherwise. Its easy to forget there are other people sitting behind these screens we type on, and that, like you, they have feelings. Somehow the distance means that anything can and will be said- and I highly doubt at least a good portion of the comments in question would be said face to face. This last part is key to me in this whole issue, why say it if you wouldn’t if you were in person? I’ve found both authors, bloggers and people that I don’t like but I don’t go out of my way to make their lives hell. There’s nothing to gain except for wasted energy, I just move on and be polite if I see them or have discussion around them. I’ve also been among the ranking of leaving ratings with no reviews- I’m no pro reviewer by any means, if you can’t say stuff nice about a book then don’t say anything at all is my philosophy and is totally understandable. Hell, I’ve even got a two star review for one of my first reviews for Vengeance on Goodreads, overall the review was positive but there were points for that two star review. They e-mailed me in private to explain their reasoning, I thanked them and moved on. There’s always room to improve and as an author you learn fast that you may as well embrace- you’ll never please everyone.
I’ve also seen a rallying cry in some areas for people to defend one another, and while I wholly agree that we should come together to stand against this type of behavior, to show that it is not all right to do this it is very, very hard to defend someone in the act beyond reporting which happens in the background. Sometimes you’re not there right as the event happens, sometimes there is the fear that backlash can come on you tenfold. And the last is the very, very real fear, in particular it happened in the early online days and with this now seems to be having a resurgence that’s noticeable and highly vocal. I remember defending friends in chat rooms and having myself get bashed in the process of trying to do it. I haven’t gone into chat rooms since that time. There is no easy answer in the act of defending people actively and vocally. Showing support like I’ve seen happen for these authors in the past few days is a good start though. It shows how tight knit of a community, bloggers and authors alike, indie/self publishing is in my opinion, its the exact reaction needed. Nothing over the top, no charge in with guns blazing slinging their own hateful comments back at the offenders, but just hey- we stand with you, we’ll help you spread the word because you had to take these actions. With such a support group network its hard for bullies to find the reaction they want/ need- there are plenty of shoulders out there, mine included that victims can tell their stories to. I would also be remiss to also mention the obvious means to the victims of these acts, blocking and of course reporting along with possibly screenshots just in case proof is needed and deleting their comments, I know in some cases they will just use dummy accounts but shut down does wonders at times with enough of it. If you do see a comment that crosses the line, do the same block, report even if it is not directed at you.
I’ve been fortunate overall to avoid this situation but still this keeps happening and sometimes it seems like its getting worse and worse. We do need a more united front on it- much like bullying in schools or general cyber-bullying now have. It does need awareness. At the same time people need to take the stance of even though its not happening to me- its still a problem. Closing your eyes doesn’t make it go away and doesn’t lessen its importance because you’re not directly involved. Some day it could be you at the victim end of things. I watched a video not too long ago about YouTube trolls and how to deal with them from a convention panel and someone mentioned people who did that were jealous of the success of those they trolled so they had to put them down and do that. I think no matter what medium you create on this applies, often these people do pop up because there is something they are jealous of since often you hear of them harassing the most successful, or the coolest ideas, or those who have made it in some fashion in their field. They want to put you down and make you feel low about what you do in order to make themselves feel better or just get people to stop doing what they’re doing. Don’t stop- you’re not alone even if it is just people doing the same as you, blocking and reporting you’re not alone.
Maybe one day we can get back to the whole- if you can’t say anything nice stage but not yet sadly. We need to remember that behind these bright screens and flat type script we are people with the same emotions. Medium doesn’t change that and as such sometimes words are the sharpest knives people can wield. Okay I’ve meandered through this in my own rambling way long enough. The short version: Enough is enough, add your voice to those against these actions and act against them in your own tactful way, key word tactful. Don’t go slinging their own stuff right back at them in the same way though you might want to.