Cruelty and Derision on the Internet

in Too Serious For Words

There is something going on in this country that is disturbing me. Maybe it’s always been here, and I’ve just never noticed before? It’s quite possible that I am that so focused on my own shit that I’ve forgotten about the crap that goes on in people’s heads.

Two things were brought to my attention that are distressing me today.

We’ve all heard about the horror wrought in a Colorado theater the other night. So many dead and injured. A mother was there with her baby. She lived through that terrible experience, and from what I understand (which isn’t much) neither was hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are groups of people on the internet questioning her parenting. Critiquing her. Besides the incredible lack of manners, it’s not okay to kick someone when they are down, the unkindness is staggering. Perhaps they are trying to reassure themselves that this will never happen to them, or their families because they would never make the mistake of taking a baby to late night theater.

It’s wrong on so many levels that I feel quite overwhelmed. Internet cruelty. I’ve heard of it, of course, but being brought face to face with bullying’s ugly face? I feel as if I’ve been punched in the gut. Innocent people died that night and what do we see? Compassion and kindness? No. Let’s tear down the victim.

The other thing that’s happening is a huge battle between readers/reviewers and authors. Authors are upset because some reviewers are targeting certain authors, sometimes without even reading that author’s book apparently. It seems as though they are trying to ruin careers. And not only are they attacking the writing and the plot lines, they are attacking the writer’s character. Groups are banding together posting negative reviews en masse, deluging book pages on Amazon and Goodreads with negative reviews and character assassinations. In return authors are banding together and doing the same to the reviewers. The difference is that as far as I know the authors aren’t targeting the readers/reviewers livelihoods, which is what is happening to the authors.

In return I’ve heard some authors are posting reviewer’s personal information on the web, threatening their privacy and the safety of their families. This is a harsh form of censorship, indeed. And also morally wrong – at least in my opinion. Really, bad reviews on your books warrants putting families at risk? Children are to pay for the sins of their parents?

Why attack another person’s source of income or safety? If you don’t think a waiter in a restaurant does a good job, you leave a small tip,  right? If the service is really bad, or if they are rude you might speak to a manager. I suppose you could invest a lot of energy and try and get them fired, but then you are robbing them of the opportunity for improvement. And normally, you don’t do that. You just walk away. You don’t try to destroy a poorly trained waiter, although you might avoid that restaurant in the future.

So why are people trying to ruin the careers of writers they don’t like? Why are writers trying to intimidate reviewers and endanger their families? Why do they think that that is okay? It’s easy enough to leave a review saying what you don’t like about the story or the writing, but why attack an author’s character? And why write a bad review if you didn’t read the book. Why ask your friends who have also never read the book to back you up and post more bad reviews? I know it’s a power play, but jeez people, don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

The lack of compassion and just plain manners is appalling. I don’t know why I thought we were evolving beyond this. I guess it’s because I only frequent websites where unconditional positive regard is the norm. Yes we disagree. But when we disagree we do it without attacking the other party’s humanity. They have a right to their opinions, even if they are different from our own. Or my own.

Here in the land of the free we are allowed the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (punctuation is my own – mostly because I can’t be bothered to look up how it’s actually written. I’m lazy, yes, but hey that’s my right.) Forgive me for foisting my opinion on you, but in my view LIFE includes the right to make a living. And to continue to improve your job performance if you care to.

I guess it comes down to this. It’s bad manners to tear down and trample on other people. It’s also bad Karma. It’s impeding our ability to evolve as human beings. And in my opinion evolve we must if we are to survive as a race. Unconditional Positive Regard people, that and a little compasion go a long way. Add some basic manners and we got the semblance of civilized society.

Of course I’m preaching to the choir here.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

londonmabel August 4, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I didn’t know this was happening to authors. It’s so weird! Weird weird weird.

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Crack You Whip July 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I have always been greatly disturbed by the online criticism of other people. A college student in my town was recently murdered while riding home late one night on her bicycle. She didn’t own a car and was an avid cyclist. The judgement poured on her for riding out so late down the quiet streets in our town was very disturbing. She was just trying to get home.

I think you hit on some great points in this post. It is impeding our ability to evolve and grow as human beings. Sadly, it is worse because anyone can hide behind screen names and play “internet bully.” Respect is home grown and this does not say much for us as a society.

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Skye July 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Critical thinking isn’t taught in schools anymore: who has time and certain fringe groups actually protest against it’s being taught. And it obviously isn’t being taught at all homes. Neither are manners or ethics.

I agree with you, Kate. We must evolve past this or we are going to go up in the flames of our own conflagrations.

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KarenB July 23, 2012 at 9:46 am

Singing Amen as well. I sometimes read reviews of books I’m considering getting, and while there are often one or two negative reviews, I haven’t seen what you are talking about. Please tell me it’s not happening to you!!

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Kate George July 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm

There is some of that, I’m learning not to take it personally and NOT to engage reviewers. As open as I try to be it seems there are people who really just want to drag you down and certainly don’t want to engage the person they are bombarding. And those people have friends who will back them, regardless of if they know the author or not. Sooo, I’m trying to ignore the bad stuff and hope that the good reviews are enough to offset the bad.

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KarenB July 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Some of the sites you can send your BBs to and we can click on this review was not helpful. And if I figure out how to take a picture of myself with my kindle I’ll send it to you, otherwise I have to wait until a kid comes home this weekend and have one of them do it. Also, did you want any more feedback on chapters 2 & 3? In the turmoil of vacation, coming home, getting kids off to Maine and camp that one slipped by me but I can try, try again now that I have a little time to myself.

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Susanne July 23, 2012 at 8:11 am

I also find the negative comments on the net shocking and disturbing. Posting can bring out the worst in people and they can be so darn judgmental.

I avoid review sites so I didn’t realize what was going on between reviewers and authors. Whatever happened to making up our own minds about whether to read a book? Whatever happened to reading the back cover and thinking, wow, this sounds good, or hmmm, not quite my cup of tea? When did we become a nation of lemmings? Why do so many willing believe what they’re reading on the net and so eager to be influenced by others?

When I was in university, one of my sociology professors always emphasized the importance of critical reading, of analyzing information and making your own decisions. Sadly, it seems as though people aren’t taking the time for such action.

Susanne, who sings alto in this choir.

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Doreen July 23, 2012 at 5:52 am

Amen Sista!!!

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