I’m going to talk about something today that I hoped I would never come across again in the vast, amazing, and chaotic world of writing. I’m going to talk about cyber-bullying, how it’s directed to authors, the ripple effect it causes, and how to handle it if it happens to you (but I hope it never does). I know that many in the writing world are still reeling from the suicide of a cover designer recently that was the result of cyber-bullying. I also know of a few others who are currently dealing with online bullies telling them to “kill themselves.” And sometimes, the bullying comes from unexpected places, hidden behind other titles, but it’s no less devastating no matter what it’s called.
No matter what a bully tells you, listen to me now. Pin it on your mirror, add the image to your phone, whatever it takes*:
What is cyber-bullying?
According to stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
A lot of bullying happens in schools, college, moms groups, forums, Facebook, etc. What you don’t hear too much about is the cyber-bullying that can occur from author to author, reader to author, author to reader, and beyond.
This image above holds a lot of words that define online bullying. Here are a few I can relate directly to writing:
Not only have I been a victim on more than one occasion, but I have helped friends through bullying crises, in more ways than one.
How authors are bullied
The easiest way to bully an author is through comment, review, and critique. It is not true that if you ask for critique, you better be thick skinned. I personally hate the term “lizard skin” because it’s for lizards. Humans are created with emotions, needs, and feelings. Getting honest feedback should not require that you bury your emotions when criticized. Honest feedback can always be given constructively, good or bad. It is true, however, that how an author responds to critique can determine how readers treat them later. There’s plenty of articles about critique etiquette all over the internet, but I want to remind you: you should always thank whoever took the time to comment regardless of how you feel about their response.Getting honest feedback should not require you to bury your emotions when criticized. #writerslife #wisewords #writers Click To Tweet
Any response that comes off as an attack—for example: What muck, and you call yourself a writer? You should quit now, just give it up. Yuck—deserves NO RESPONSE. None. Not even a thanks.
By not acknowledging the attacker, you strip them of their power over you.
Another way to bully an author is to leave an honest, yet negative review, then have all your friends gang up on the author and like your review so it stays on the top and buries the rest. This is mobbing, and it’s unacceptable. It’s horrible to let your personal vendetta tear someone else down. To further attack the author with accusations of thin skin, harassing them by posting your own personal opinion on their rant about the attack on another social media site, adding insults , and targeting them for harassment from others in comments is just another form of bullying.
It’s like kicking someone in the face after they’re already on the ground unconscious.
The ripple affect
Writers are insecure by nature. In fact, it’s been said, the better the writer, the deeper the insecurity. So, when an author is attacked, it runs deep into their core, challenging their want to write, to create, and sometimes even exist. It is no less tragic than any other form of bullying, except…
You can’t face your bully because they’ve hidden behind the computer screen. What you can do is get their IP address and block it, but sometimes even that doesn’t give the feeling of security back.
Cyber-bullying is more cowardly than other types of bullying. You may never know when a bully will attack, but online, you never see it coming until it’s there. They post comments on your blog, gang up to give you low ratings, write horrible reviews, spout nothing but negativity to bring you down, call you out on social forums and sites to further torment you. Sometimes it’s more subtle like slandering you in a passive-aggressive way.
It’s sickening, but it’s very real, and the affect of bullying online is just as bad, if not worse, than bullying in real life.
What to do if you’re bullied online
Gosh that’s a hard answer. Well, no the answers are easy, but following them through proves difficult because of our built-in need to defend. Here are a few steps you can take to stop it in its tracks:
- Ignore it. Don’t respond to the attack. It’s hard, but it’s the best way to handle it, even when they’ve ganged up and one-starred you.
- Tell the powers that be about the incident. If it’s your blog, block their IPs. If it’s a social site, flag it, send an email of complaint. If they can’t stop it due to it not really violating any of their rules, they can offer suggestions on how to stop it from happening again.
- Delete the comments where you can.
- Enlist the aid of friends you trust. They can support you in many ways dependent on the bullying. Ganged up on? They can reverse it. Comments getting out of control? Let them take over your blog and delete the comments for you. Cry out your pain and frustration in private messages. Most platforms offer blocking and hiding options. Utilize them.
And in conclusion, I’d like to note that the less you acknowledge your attacker, the less power they have over you. Make sure you legitimize your feelings, however, because they are genuine. Face them head on so you can move on. This is one great thing about being involved in a writing circle, group, or community. You never have to face it alone.Zero tolerance for #bullying of any kind. #stopbullying in its tracks. #writerslife Click To Tweet
*note: Even if you aren’t bullied but have issues like depression, low self-esteem, or similar, or just like to give yourself a daily boost, printables like this are great tools for that.