NEEDLES IN THE COMMENT THREADS ; ON-LINE BULLYING
A lot has been written about cyber bullying among young people on social networking sites, but I was shocked to encounter the problem on an online writers’ forum. Generally speaking I found the members to be mature, articulate and supportive, but on one occasion a discussion degenerated to the point where an offensive personal remark was made. The victim and a couple of others promptly removed themselves. I have always considered myself something of a moral coward, but on this occasion I felt I had to speak up. To my surprise, few members backed me. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had overreacted to a couple of people simply ‘getting the hump’ and leaving.
I am now thoroughly ashamed that I remained a member, but a friend had invited me to join and I was also enjoying the interaction with like-minded people, most of whom were delightful. However, the person responsible for the unpleasant remark also had a habit of making what I perceived to be patronizing comments about ‘hobby writers’ and ‘amateurs.’ Then, perhaps inevitably, there was another instance of bullying which amounted to downright character assassination. This time a brave soul defended the person being attacked and suffered the consequences. Her stand against injustice was all the more admirable because she had done the same thing in a previous career, at considerable personal cost. Who would have blamed her if she had decided: ‘Well I hate what’s happening, but I’m damned if I’m putting myself through that again!’ ?
Those involved in the bullying had some influence in this person’s area of writing and therefore she risked damage to her reputation. I sincerely hope it did not happen. Once again I said my piece about problems with the forum and was duly ejected. Of course the whole affair created divided loyalties and I was subsequently ‘un-friended’ by someone on my personal facebook page. The word un-friended smacks of the schoolyard and sounds ridiculous I know, but apparently it is a rite of passage in the cyber world. I now consider it a badge of honour, rather like receiving my first rejection slip. And on the positive side, I gained half a dozen new ‘friends’ through the affair .
By sheer coincidence a young friend called Holly (aka Stuffed Olive) had just tweeted a sweetly poignant plea: ‘Dear people who are horrible, just try to be decent human beings then maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so disheartened. Regards, sad Olive.’ Holly/Olive was commenting on a completely unrelated matter but I shared her sentiments!
Around the same time I spotted a wonderfully appropriate quote by the late Christopher Hitchens, outspoken author and journalist: ‘Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity….the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.’
Mark Twain also had some wise words on the subject: ‘It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.’
I now run a FB group myself, the Australian Social History page. I have never allowed contemporary political posts. Some may argue that politics is social history, but sadly it invariably leads to slanging matches, bullying and disrespect.
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