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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The New B Word or, Stand By for Incoming Drama.

The title of this post may be misleading- the b word I'm talking about isn't new, but it certainly is getting a lot of attention lately.  I think you know the one I mean.

The word, of course, is bullying.  For those not aware of the cluster surrounding the Stop the GoodReads Bullies debacle, I leave you to your own Googling, but suffice it to say it's got a lot of people's blood up and frankly, for good reason.

I'm summarizing my feelings on the subject in a list, because it's painfully easy to go on and on about this situation at this point without getting to my actual reason for writing.

1.  It is never, ever okay to publish someone's personal information online without their direct consent. By doing this, you have crossed the line from having a point that some people may not agree with to engaging in reprehensible behavior.  It is not "giving someone a taste of their own medicine," because unless they posted your name, address, photo, and employment status for all to see, what you did is not the same as what they did.

2. Isn't it freaky how the internet lets people create a persona to disguise their real identity, but brings us into contact with more people than we could ever hope to meet in real life?  Go figure, not all of those people think we are awesome, and some of them aren't afraid to tell us!

3.  At the end of the day, there is a romance that exists that attempts to relegate books and stories to a category of consumable that's different from all others and therefore needs to be protected from criticism.  I totally understand that authors put a lot of personal effort and energy into their work and therefore are extremely emotionally invested in what other people think.  However, at some point the decision was made to publish that work for public consumption and to charge money for people to read it.  This changes things, people.

4.  Just because someone says something mean, does not mean you need to respond.  Over and over again we have seen that defending yourself, your work, your post, your blog, your whatever, has actually made the situation worse.  You had your say first thing out of the gate; engaging a venomous opposing party is making the situation worse and asking for it to get more attention than it deserves.  Remember: Thou Shalt Not Feed Trolls.  Be honest the first time around and you don't ever need to clarify.

My final feeling, and this is the one that resonates with me most strongly, is the ease with which the term "bullying" was thrown into the mix.  The peril of using that word so cavalierly is that the word loses meaning, and people who have legitimately been bullied have to fight harder to get help.  People don't take them seriously (which is wrong) because they have been desensitized to the issue and it all fades into the background.  This is a tragedy, and it shows the importance of choosing your words carefully.

I will personally consider it a blessing if I never have occasion to write a post like this again.  Is it sad that I'm not optimistic that this is the last time this issue will come up?
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