Cyberbullies attack writers but didn’t get the memo that we’re over their bullshit
Or, as the great Margaret Atwood wrote, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”
I began writing as soon as I could put sentences together.
My style has evolved, somewhat, over the years, but my role as a writer has not. As a writer, it is my duty to say not what we can all say; rather, it is to say what many of us are unable to speak. The brilliant Anais Nin spoke of the writer’s role better than I, but you get the gist.
In elementary school, I wrote short stories, mostly for my own pleasure. Sometimes I would share them with my family, who always encouraged me to keep writing.
I went to college and wrote more papers than I can remember, but decided to pursue a career in law. What can I say? I liked to argue.
I wrote passionately as a criminal lawyer for fifteen years. The criminal justice system broke my heart. The longer I was involved in it, I realized that neither side received true justice.
Deciding I needed an outlet that had nothing to do with the legal world that surrounded me, I began a humor blog on Facebook, called Down The Hole. It was an anonymous outlet for me to vent, to share, and to get back to writing and connecting with my true self. It was absolutely liberating.
My choice to remain anonymous was multi-faceted, and all revolved around sensitive privacy issues for members of my family.
As my blog gained in popularity, it became inevitable that some people who were close to me, either by friendship, kinship, or proximity, discovered that I was DTH (as people call me on the blog).
I always warn people that I write what I feel, that I do not pull punches, and that I do not use people’s real names, but I will be truthful and honest. I tell people that Down The Hole, and now my website, and soon in the future, my book, will be my expressions of my feelings, my thoughts, and my ideas. Additionally, I tell them that if they cannot handle my brand of humor or my bluntness, then they should not follow the page or read my stories. Free will and all of that, you know? Also, First Amendment, just for shits and giggles.
The problem stems though, when not only myself, but also many other writers dare to write something on Facebook, Twitter, our websites, or in books, that offends another person.
My life and livelihood, currently, revolve around my branding on the Internet, on my writing, and on my online presence. I am a writer. That is my profession. Actually, it is my passion.
And the world in cyberspace is a great deal more terrifying than being shut in a courtroom with a murdering psychopath and his posse. Trust me. I’ve done both.
The first few times I wrote articles or pieces for my blog that garnered me a troll or two, it actually felt like a right of passage. I had made it in the blogging world enough that I had actual dissenters to my opinion. It was easy enough to delete their comments and ban them from my page. Done and done.
Some people become amazingly brave and put their big boy britches on as they sit in their mom’s basement, trolling the Internet for people to harass. These bullies, because that is what they are, have officially been dubbed “Internet Trolls” or just “Trolls.”
Trolls delight in disrupting their victim’s emotional equilibrium. They degrade their prey and break them down, sometimes inciting a mob mentality against their victim.
When you are a writer, and a true troll attacks you, their lynch mob mentality can have devastating effects on a person. The attacks can go beyond the Internet, and can seep over into the victim’s real life.
In 2006, a seventh grader, Mitchell Henderson committed suicide after being bullied online. The bullies continued trolling his family online, and began calling his family, harassing them personally, while they grieved their dead child.
I have experienced the same types of trolling that started as private messages after someone disagreed with a story that I wrote. The trolling spread to several other people joining in and texting or private messaging me on social media about the offending story.
Then their behavior became personal, with direct contact by my predators, yelling and screaming at me over a period of almost two months. I was called a “motherfucking bitch,” and that “nothing you do fucking matters.” They would yell at my dogs, telling them, “Shut the fuck up, you stupid fucking asshole dogs!” I mean, come on. My dogs barked. That’s what dogs do, especially when they feel their person isn’t safe. One of the group who had carried the torch to burn down my domain, breached my anonymity on my blog, all the while knowing the reasons I kept my blog anonymous. I would be in my yard with my dogs and children, when one of the mob would drive by my house and flip me off.
I would call my husband, who is stationed in the military somewhere far away from me, and sit down on the floor in the dark and cry about the latest round of screaming at me or about me when they knew I could hear them. They almost broke me. Almost.
It still continues, and lies are thrown around about me like those annoying coupon flyers that end up in your driveway every weekend.
Groups began studies on the behaviors of people who engage in trolling behavior, classifying them as predatory and investigating whether they possess personality traits consistent with being manipulative, deceitful, narcissistic, having a lack of remorse, and/or a willingness to inflict pain on others.
One author, when writing about cyber-bullying on her blog, mentioned a quote from a reader who posited, “A new author will commit suicide after a sustained online bullying campaign, most likely stemming from Goodreads; it will cause major headlines and public anger.”
Lamb continued later on in her article about the bullying of writers, “When bullies can make someone retreat from the Internet, stop blogging, hide, they WIN…and grow even MORE emboldened and continue searching out even more targets to terrorize to feed the rush.”
But, perhaps, the point that drove home to me that I will no longer bow down to the bullying and that I will express my truth and I will keep writing with all of the passion that I had before this extended session of cyber-turned-personal bullying began, was this:
“We all have rights. But my RIGHT to swing my fist STOPS where your nose begins.
I have the right to complain. I DO NOT have the right to scream, yell, shout obscenities, and stalk and abuse the staff. If I went to a restaurant, I have the right to complain about the food or the service. But, if I screamed obscenities and attacked everyone in range verbally, do you guys think the manager would say, “Oh just ignore her”? NO. He’d toss me out on my butt and call the cops if I refused to behave or leave.
And if I gathered all my hateful friends to mob-attack the restaurant, would I be allowed to continue with this behavior? NO. I’d be sitting with my jerk friends in jail.”
Wow. Just wow.
I stopped reading and just absorbed her words for a few minutes.
I had completely dismissed my rights in the onslaught of hate that I was being subjected to because of something I wrote.
Lamb’s words were a game changer for me. They were the light at the end of the tunnel that I didn’t even realize I was in.
Narcissism is large part of what makes a bully a bully. They use slander, lies, playing the victim in flipped tales of who was the victim and who was the abuser, they gossip, they rage, and they intentionally inflict emotional pain on their target.
Then they recruit sidekicks to help them alienate their target. These sidekicks are every bit as guilty as the narcissist, either by helping them or by doing nothing.
The problem comes, then, when the toxic narcissistic troll can no longer control you, or what you write. They will seek out others to try and control what people think about you. It has taken me several years (ok, more like 20) to realize that eventually, those who are not complicit in tearing me down will see the truth. The misinformation will feel unfair and will hurt so much at times that you question if continuing down your chosen path is worth the stones being thrown at you.
You see, we are all fantastic lawyers when it comes to our own mistakes. We are even better judges for the mistakes of others. Look at the mob mentality of any group of bullies. Let them tell you how horribly the other person behaved.
But these people turn out to be their own worst enemy when we, as writers remember why we began writing in the first place. Sometimes, it just takes another writer reminding us of why we write.
I don’t need some other person’s approval in order to be good enough. When someone trolls me, judges me, bullies me, rejects my writing, I’ve finally realized, it is not about me at all.
Their judgment, their bullying, and their actions are about them and their own limitations and insecurities. Their rejection has nothing to do with my worth as a writer, and more importantly, as a person.
My worth is inherent, as is every other writer’s, and every other person’s on this planet. But I’m focusing on writers and on our need to support each other and to stay strong in the face of our bullies, both cyber and personal.
We are allowed to voice our thoughts. We are allowed to articulate our feelings. We have the right to speak our truths.
I exist, therefore I am by the very nature of my being allowed to take up space and assert my needs and my thoughts.
Who I am, what I feel, what I think, what I have to say as a writer is what makes me different from the next writer, and nobody should feel that they can shame me or bully me into silence.
No person’s worth is in any way contingent upon what some other person thinks of or spews forth about you.
You? The writer who is experiencing or who has experienced or who will experience this trolling that I’ve spoken of? Here’s my advice.
Keep moving forward. Do what you have to do for you. Don’t give a single fuck about what anybody thinks or says to you or about you. Write YOUR truth.
I have learned that it is time that I stop letting people scare me. I have spent too many years being worried about how others will feel based upon my articulation of my feelings, of my opinions, of my truth.
I refuse to continue my life trying to please everyone else.
I cannot and will not go through my life worried about what everyone else is going to think about what I write.
The color of my hair may offend some people. Today, it’s mostly purple. Next week, I might change it to teal. I do what I want. The clothes I wear probably cause others to look down upon me in disdain. Some of my shirts say “fuck” on them. Oh well.
Some envy the material objects that I have. Others openly mock the debts that I have created by doing good for others when I did not see it right to charge them because they did not have money for me to represent them when I practiced law.
I realized, however, that I cannot, no; I will not let the judgment of these few stop me from being who I am.
If I do buckle to their hatred and their manipulation and lies, I am no longer me. I have compromised who I am. I have become who they want me to be. And that is not a person who I can live with.
People are intimidated by a person who speaks their truth and who is not afraid to stand alone as they speak it. A person who can stand alone and speak their truth scares others because that sole person is whole, despite the criticism and bullying of others. As a writer, I am going to be exactly who I say I am, and I am going to tell the fucking truth. I want to scare the world with the truth.
There’s an innate part of each of us that wants to seek revenge. We want to reach out and strike back against those who disparage us. How beautiful would it be, instead, to not let the bastards rent space in our heads and to move on with our lives? Forgiveness and moving on is liberating. Also, it freaks people the fuck out when they’re still trying to burn you at the stake and you smile at them. When a person has been through the hell of being bullied, then she looks into a fire and smiles, fear her.
You cannot provoke a caged lion until it roars and then be upset when it breaks free and blame it for becoming the monster you have created. These trolls, the keyboard warriors, launch stones and some may hit. Some will miss. I read a quote that was unattributed, which advised to not throw the stones back. Rather, collect them and build an empire.
The older I get, the more I understand not only angry women, but also writers who write as if their souls are on fire. We are described as crazy, or mad.
The truth is we have gained insight and knowledge. We have become powerful. And we are fucking furious.
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