Wednesday Writers Wisdom: The Big Bully

I’m going to talk about something today that I hoped I would never come across in the vast, amazing, and chaotic world of writing. I’m going to talk about cyberbullying, 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).

What is cyberbullying?

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.

cyber_bullying

We hear news reports on it all the time, and a lot of bullying happens in youth, in high schools, college, moms groups and forums, Facebook, etc. What you don’t hear too much about is the cyberbullying that can occur from author to author, reader to author, author to reader.

This image to the left holds a lot of words that define online bullying. Here are a few I can relate directly to writing:

  • mobbing
  • attack
  • stalking
  • insults
  • target
  • disrespect
  • media
  • social
  • harassing

In fact, just in the past week, I helped a friend through a bullying review crisis, 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. We will talk about critique etiquette on another post, but I just want to mention that you should always thank whoever took the time to comment regardless of how you feel about their response.

UNLESS!

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

99096Writers 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.

Cyberbullying 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.

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 do I do if I’m 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:

  1. BullyFreeposterIgnore 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  Delete the comments where you can.
  4. 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.

And in conclusion, I’d like to note that the less you acknowledge your attacker, the less power they have over you. Legitimize your feelings, because they are genuine. Face them head on so you can move on. This is one great thing about a community like Our Write Side. We have a zero bullying tolerance and will do whatever we can to help someone through an attack.

Now it's your turn. Have you ever experienced this? How did you handle it? #cyberbullying Click To Tweet

 

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Stephanie Ayers

Executive Creative Director at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC
A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is the Executive Creative Director of OWS Ink, LLC, a community for writers and readers alike. She loves a good thriller, fairies, things that go bump in the night, and sappy stories. When she is not writing, she can be found in Creative Cloud designing book covers and promotional graphics for authors.
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