09 August 2009

Cyberbullying Blogger Style

Tonight is a lazy night for me. I didn't close at the store so I've been finishing a few knitting projects (Karma's Poncho is done, yarn ends sewn in, steamed and in the bag, yeah!), having tea and a scone, watching You've Got Mail (because for all my snark I'm also pretty sappy), and occasionally perusing TweetDeck. Oh, we're having a summer storm here, too.

I got totally distracted by series of tweets from BiblioBrat, mjmbecky, and thestorysiren regarding some wing-nut who has Kristi pegged for harrassment (of course, I had to go read all the comments and put in my own two cents). Kristi has been removing some of the more heinous comments from the "crazy person" - who is posting more garbage using the defensive "we" rather than the singular personal pronoun - but the gist of Anonymous/Lena's rant is that Kristi needs to quit hogging the YA books, leave them to the teen bloggers, and just not review YA because Kisti is "old" (Kristi is younger than I am, FYI). In short, the crazy is demonstrating that he/she/they/it has the IQ of a troll and behaves like one, too. The same type of comment-flaming ensued on Tricia's Book Blog this week over the fact that Tricia hit the jackpot and was offered a free bookshelf to test out and review on her blog, lucky her (I have to be slightly jealous of Tricia in a good way because it is a pretty nice bookshelf). And, come to think of it, there was also a crazy person flaming The Yarn Harlot only a few weeks ago; flaming Stephanie is about like self-immolation because we Harlot-ites are militant in our defense of her (and we carry pointy, sharpened needles with us....everywhere).

Either there are multiple flamers running around in cyberspace or one sick individual.

So as I sat knitting the collar for a baby cardie (last piece!) and watching You've Got Mail I was thinking about the inherent community that goes along with reading/loving books and knitting. Those us who love books and love to talk about books - meaning we have blogs and book clubs and various bookish friends in the 21st century - have a very supportive community with all the other bibliophiles out there; we exchange reviews, encouragement, memes, and our love of the written word. Even if we don't agree on a point or have different reading tastes we don't denigrate one another; I don't think I've seen any serious book bloggers get obnoxious with one another (I've not been really active in the blogosphere long, so this could just be a case of not looking in the right places). The same goes for knitters. We all love and admire one another's handiwork, ask about where we got the yarn, support our LYS, and happily troop off to fiber festivals. Look at the Sock Summit that just wrapped up in Portland - if that doesn't say "community" then I don't know what does.

Cyberbullies seem to feed off that community energy; attack one in the community, the community responds with support, and the bully is somehow validated in its sick existence. The more the community backs the bully's victim, the more attention is afforded to the bully. It's a sick cycle and one that is nearly impossible to break. The web affords a cyberbully some veneer of anonymity since one can fake an online ID/persona, at least until the IP address is revealed and then "back-hacked into the Stone Age" (I love Penelope on Criminal Minds). Would ignoring the cyberbully work? It seems responding politely or vehemently only causes more flaming so perhaps pretending the bully doesn't exist will help (and turning on the comment moderation/requiring commenters to have an OpenID or Blogger account). However, remaining silent seems to tacitly agree with a bullying commenter so speaking out against the negativity seems to be the better option.

There isn't a really good way to solve the problem - the best we can do right now is call the cyberbully out and support the bully's target. So keep on blogging, knitting, reading, whatever floats your boat because the community will support you.


  1. Amen. We all have to be here for eachother, support eachother. Otherwise those idiots will win.

  2. The point you make about us all being part of a solid community is key here. It is because of this many of us took blogging to heart realizing it was so much more than merly keeping an online journal about a hobby we love, be it knitting or reading.

    This community bands together at the drop of a hat (or the comment of a troll in this case) and woe to those who think they can do anything to destroy that solidarity.

    You've hit the nail on the proverbial head here Melissa. Thank you for speaking out and sharing.

  3. Most of these people are reliant on your not knowing how to play the game and your being more upset about things than they could ever be. The price of victory is "Care." You pay it; they pocket it. How much Care you give them is dependent on the length of your replies, the outrage level of your replies and of course the investment you divulge. This is one of those things that's very difficult to get right, and unfortunately most of these people probably have more practice than you do. I wouldn't know what this is like if I hadn't stumbled on free-for-all websites where comedy was the only rule, so I don't know what to tell you to do. About the best I can recommend is that shooting for the most humor with the least discernible effort is your best bet. The more people you get dogpiling often is more counterproductive: after all, the troll sees all these people scrambling with so much care. Look how threatened they are by one person. Best just to wait for the funniest posters to handle him. That, and internet-detective him. Nothing's funnier than finding someone who undermines their own attack. For instance, the other day some guy was disrupting an unrelated discussion by telling everyone they were going to hell for voting for anyone who supported abortion. A quick, "Well, here's a screenshot of you posting feedback on a schoolgirl spanking site that says you need to stop talking," and the discussion moved on.