Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bullying Long Distance

In the past week, there was yet another explosion in the online reading communities. Author/reviewer meltdowns. (Deep, heartfelt sigh!) I hate drama, avoid it like the plague, unless it's between the pages of my Harlequin Presents novel. I have tried to stay out of it, because that pathway is madness. I have my opinions on the whole debate, and I think I can see both sides. I don't want to get into that. I want to talk about the aftermath, and the ugly pattern I see here.

This is a woman who was bullied most of her childhood in school. I had a permanent pick on me sign attached to my forehead. Strangely enough, I went out of my way to be invisible and to do my own thing. But still, the bullies always found a reason to make my life hell. Something good came out of it, though. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and all that. I have found there is freedom in not being part of the crowd. The crowd will take you places you don't want to go many times than not. As for the bullying, one hopes that people grow out of this. It's not the case. The bullying just grows a more high-tech skin. It seems at though the internet is the new tool for bullying.

Here's the scenario.

Let's say Person A wrote a review/blog that said some things that people didn't like, you go and recruit your friends to go and bombard said blog/review with reasons why those words and actions were so heinous and how wrong they are. The crowd overwhelms the opinion of that one person. That person starts to second guess their position. They run and hide and decide to keep their mouths shut. Free speech loses this day. Because the majority has overruled the minority by sheer force. I see this is internet bullying.

Why is it bullying? Because if two people don't agree, that's one thing. They talk things out, and decide they can either see the opposite side or they can't. They agree to disagree and move on. But one person goes and gets all their friends to come say why the other person is wrong, how do we really know that the other person's argument wasn't sound or correct? We don't. Their voice has died away, and all is left is the fact that they slunk away to lick their wounds. Or they keep it going, and things escalate into Internet Community Smackdown #1001. There is no winning in this scenario.

The internet is a beautiful thing. It's a way for people to connect to each other over mutual interests, to educate, and to entertain. Like any invention, it has its dark side. I think that this is definitely a dark side of the internet, with the various internet social communities. There is only freedom if you are strong or loud enough, or have enough friends to support you. There is only a voice if you don't have many others drowning you out. That's not freedom to me. That's a form of slavery. You become the big bully so you don't get bullied. You're now a slave of the system, the person keeping the lone voice down. Maybe you thought you were doing the right thing at first. But the ends don't justify the means.

That leaves us with a choice. We can creep back to our own corners, keep our mouths shut, keep a low profile. We can become part of the problem, or we can do our part to keep the lines of communication open, in the ways that feel right and honorable to ourselves. I know which one I'm going to do.

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