So, yeah. I’m a writer, and I’ve heard about the bullying stuff on Goodreads and elsewhere.
I’m also a reader, and I love Goodreads. I love it for the reviews, I love it for the Facebook-like feed that tells me what all my friends are reading, I love it because I hear about awesome books that I never would have heard of otherwise. (I read Easy by Tammara Weber because it kept showing up in my feed. Same with Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. I tend to avoid self-pub (Easy) because I’ve been burned so many times, and I thought I wouldn’t like another dystopian. (UtNS) But so many five-star reviews and squees just couldn’t be wrong. And they weren’t. Both books were fantastic.)
Look, I don’t pull any punches, and I don’t like sugar coating things. I can’t write anything other than my true feelings. So here’s what I think about reviews and bullying.
Yes, I cried when I got my first 1-star review full of animated gifs and insults. It was my first one, and there’s no way to soften the blow of those things. There’s just not. Even if you’re not a writer, you can relate to the feeling of someone strongly disliking something you care about. It’s NOT like someone insulting your kid to your face. It’s a different feeling, more like overhearing someone insulting your kid to someone else.
You know what? That’s not accurate. My book is not my child. And that’s such a bad comparison, because it’s so easy to dismiss.
How about this: it’s like baking something for a party, something you really worked hard on, maybe something you spent hours making, and you were proud of it. Then, later, you overhear someone saying, “This tastes like crap.”
And what’re you going to do? Yell at the person for having an opinion? Or have a friend yell at them? They’re allowed to have an opinion!
I mean seriously. How would that look. “HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE MY CRAB DIP?!”
Even now, sitting in front of my laptop, it makes me want to throw my hands up. You would never see this happen. I’m giggling now, thinking about it, imagining someone screaming at my sister-in-law at a party, yelling, “DAMN IT, WHY THE F DID YOU TELL MARY YOU DIDN’T LIKE MY CRAB DIP?” (There’s nothing wrong with my sister-in-law, she just happens to have a lot of pool parties — with crab dip — so she fit the scene.)
Or if someone really DID say that, can’t you imagine the other people staring? Come on. You can, can’t you? The whispering? “Did you see that woman go screaming about her stupid crab dip? I mean, maybe the lady has a shellfish allergy. Goodness.”
This just all sounds so silly! But for some reason, people get on the internet, armed with a keyboard and a screen (helloooo, I’m doing it now), and they pour out their heart and soul and frustration and angst and THEY FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE A POINT TO MAKE, and suddenly it’s okay to act like a frigging lunatic.
I’ve often thought that the state highway patrol should run ads against aggressive driving, showing things like tailgating and unsafe lane changes in a totally different environment. Can you imagine someone shoving their cart in front of yours at the grocery store? Or getting up RIGHT BEHIND YOU when you’re in line at the bank, maybe even swearing and flipping you off? Or talking on the cell phone and slowly weaving back and forth while a line of people tries to pass you in a crowded hallway?
This is kind of the same. I suspect that a lot of the online harassment that’s going on would never happen in real life. There’s anonymity behind a computer screen and an avatar, just like there’s safety (sorta) behind the wheel of a car. And it’s just so EASY to get hyped up when you’re sitting in your jammies and it’s all typed words on a screen. It’s easy to get madder than you need to — because you’re not getting mad in public, you’re getting mad at more words on a screen. It’s easy to want to rally the troops to abuse someone online, because you feel like it’s justified, and hey, it’s just words.
I’m not going to go into the stuff about people being behind the words, and how we all need to remember to be kind and blah blah blah. Do we really need a reminder? Really?
I think we’ve gotten to this point where it’s gone way beyond tit for tat. It’s almost turned into a battle of who can be the bigger you-know-what. Yes, yes, yes, I’ve seen all the justifications, on all sides. I agree with some of them. I disagree with some of them. Reviewing is so subjective, and anytime you have something subjective, there’s going to be disagreement.
But come on. Harassing people until they feel the need to take down their blog? Looking up personal details to the point where a blogger got a personal phone call, where someone says they know how to find her? Really? OVER A BLOG?
(Put it in the above scenario: “I KNOW WHERE TO FIND YOU. AND YOUR STINKIN’ CRAB DIP, TOO. *click*”)
This one time, when I was a sophomore in high school, a senior girl was mad at another senior girl, and recruited me to help her play a prank. It was Christmas, and all the senior lockers were decorated. Early in the morning (helloooo, anonymity), I helped this girl trash the other girl’s locker. (I didn’t even know the other girl; I just felt lucky to be included in something that gave me power over someone else.) I felt pretty proud of myself.
Until I heard that the other girl was sobbing in the bathroom for an hour before someone found her, and she was so upset that they had to call her parents to come get her.
Then? I felt pretty shitty. I still feel pretty shitty, and that was almost twenty years ago.
This, now, this bullying stuff on Goodreads and elsewhere, makes me feel pretty shitty. And I’m not even involved! I will never, EVER, criticize a reviewer for saying anything about my book or anyone else’s. But I’m terribly sad for my friends who have felt the need to take down their blogs. I’m sad for the reviewers who have a right to say whatever the heck they want about a book (animated gifs and all), who are under attack. I’m sad for people who have to find a sense of validation by hunting down people on the internet and lashing out at them. I’m sad about all of it.
I wish I knew how to stop it, but I don’t think any one person can stop it. It’s going to take a collective effort of bloggers/tweeters/reviewers/human beings to just … stop it. Seriously, stop it. This is my mommy face. Stop it.
I mean, we all know when we’re doing something wrong, right?