I’ve been blogging for over four years now and I’m fortunate enough to say that I can count the negative comments I’ve received on my blog on one hand. Maybe two.
To be honest, I don’t generally write content that evokes a lot of negative emotion or really polarizes people. And I’m totally fine with that. Sometimes I dabble in politics (based purely on opinion, I’m by no means a political analyst) or I reflect on a current issue that’s on my mind. But generally, I try to keep things pretty positive in my writing.
You might find me on any given day waxing poetic about the latest wine shipment I’ve received or showing cute pictures of my kid because he is pretty darn cute. But sometimes I’ll go a little deeper or a little darker because I feel compelled to and, frankly, this is my corner of the internet so why not?
One of the things I accept about being on the internet is that I’m putting myself out there (my thoughts, my opinions, pictures of my flabby belly) and therefore inviting scrutiny of everything I say. I mean, I don’t actually invite it but the nature of the internet, and blogs in particular, is to have a conversation.
Last week, I wrote a post about Martha Stewart. It was a bit of a tongue in cheek piece written as an open letter to her, expressing how I felt about her negative comments that generalized the world of blogging. It was a bit ranty because I was feeling a bit ranty and mainly I wanted Martha Stewart herself to know that I was pissed off. And I suppose it worked. Her PR agency read my post, several times. Did Martha read it? Doubtful but I still have this innate satisfaction with having written it.
Truth be told, it’s been my most popular post ever which is awesome but I also recognize that a lot of those readers will never return to my blog. That’s okay. People are welcome to come and read and leave their thoughts if they are so inclined. And they did. I had an overwhelmingly positive response to the post but I also had some negative comments. Again, that’s okay. You take the good with the bad.
But when do negative comments and opinions become cyberbullying? And are we really overusing that word?
In my opinion, YES.
I hear the word cyberbullying thrown around a lot in the blogging world so I decided to do a little research on the topic.
First of all, it’s hard to find the use of the word cyberbullying in any context other than for teens and kids. And if you keep up with the news at all, it’s clear that this is an extremely important topic that we need to address with our children. More on that later.
But to find a definition for the word itself, I consulted my good friend Mr. Wikipedia. Now I know Wikipedia is by no means an authority but I refer to it a lot because I think it references commonly accepted ideas and definitions. So to quote…
Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm or harass other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. As it has become more common in society, particularly among young people, legislation and awareness campaigns have arisen to combat it.
Last week, after I wrote my post about Martha Stewart, I noticed that I was receiving a lot of traffic from an internet site that shall not be named that pretty much exists for criticizing (to put it mildly) the myriad of bloggers out there. So, out of curiosity, I went to the site that shall not be named and looked at what was being said and why it was being said.
It started off pretty mildly. A compliment of my writing, a criticism of my post, a belittling of my writing style, and a link to my post. And then it went on from there.
The open comments to me ranged from it wasn’t so bad to she should f*ck off and die. At its best, this site calls people out on their BS. At its worst, it devolves into personal attacks on family and body image (yes, my Shaklee pictures were reposted for all to see). I responded to a few of the comments simply because I feel that if someone is talking about me, I should at least be part of the conversation. But it became quickly apparent that I wasn’t going to make any new friends and it wasn’t really adding anything to my day to read the comments.
People are quick to call that bullying. So was I being cyberbullied?
I go back to the definition of cyberbullying. Was I being harmed? Maybe a little emotionally but I drink wine for things like that. Was I being harrassed? Not in my opinion. This was a forum where people express their opinions. Because I didn’t like the opinions and because they happened to be about me doesn’t make me bullied. It makes me an idiot for going to read it.
Do sites like these write about people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner? Absolutely. But again, just as they don’t have to read my site, I don’t have to read theirs.
So then what is this phenomenon that many bloggers experience if it’s not cyberbullying? I’ll tell you. It’s mean people.
My sister used to have a bumper sticker on her car that vaguely resembled the graphic above. It’s a simple statement but one that’s so true. People are mean and mean people suck.
The bigger question is why do people have to be mean? I’ve actually asked a few people over the years known to be “haters” and their answers surprised me. Some were really, really off balance mentally (in my non-professional opinion). Others enjoyed what they considered a good debate and honestly felt like it was their moral responsibility to call people out on their writing, no matter how abrasive the techniques. I’d also speculate that is has something to do with self-loathing issues. If I make someone else feel bad, then in theory it should make me feel better, right?
This is not to say that cyberbullying does not go on in the blogging world. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve seen people attack others in a mean, deliberate, and harmful way. I’ve seen them go out of their way to try to destroy someone personally and professionally. It’s awful.
The bigger issue in my mind is the next generation. Many of these “mean people” are our peers. They have blogs. They work in PR. They live in the suburbs and in the city. They work from home or work in a professional setting. And they have children.
With all of the horrific types of teen cyberbullying cases we hear in the news, my thoughts immediately go to the parents. These are learned behaviors. It’s time for cyberbullying campaigns and resources like StopBullying.gov to expand their thinking on parental involvement. While parents need to watch and monitor everything their children are doing online, it’s time for many parents to stop and reflect on their own behavior.