Bully for you, bully for me

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?


20 thoughts on “Bully for you, bully for me

  1. I’m not even going to read reviews when I get published. It’s probably easier – I was getting worked up at the reviews about my FRIEND’S book. I think it’d be good for my soul to stay away from the crazy altogether.

    Now we’ve had this chat, GO FINISH SPIRIT ALREADY *whips*

  2. Crab dip. I will probably think of you the next time I eat crab dip. 🙂
    And, the part about people shoving in line and flipping you off? Yeah, well, people do that where I live; it’s called “driving on the freeway.”

    Great post. 🙂

  3. Wonderful post and … this crap dip analogy made me morning.
    You made the perfect point here. No one would say in your face: Your crap dip sucks big time. They would phrase it differently, nicer. Because if you are really faced with the person, you would never throw out lines like this.
    The same goes for this situation and I mean all involved parties here.

    Only write in the internet what you would tell this person in the face!

    Of course this advice is only helpful when you are a person who actually gives a crap about manners.
    If I would not like your book (like at all) I would never phrase it disrespectful when talking to you, I would tell you (probably with a sad face underlying my dismay and discomfort over this situation) and tell you that this book wasn’t for me.

    On the other hand: I would also never call out people that misbehave – In my Opinion – and call them out like this. It’s horrible what’s happening and they should also ask themselves, but they say exactly this if they would actually meet those people? Really?

  4. Great post! What’s blowing my mind is that reporting these nuts to their web provider is doing no good. I hope the poor girl who got the phone call alerted the police. It’s disgusting that nothing can be done to protect people in a situation like this because there are so many ways it could be stopped (taking down the site, police involvement, etc) before someone gets hurt. And since I heard about this site, I’ve been afraid that someone will get hurt.

  5. Great post, I completely agree with you.
    It’s horrible how far people take things just because they’re hiding behind a computer screen, but the consequences of their actions can be enormous and so devastating.

  6. Ummmm, my crab dip totally rocks and if someone was criticizing it while swimming in my pool – hmmmm…they would become uninvited. So, my theory is don’t let the ugly into your house, your pool, or your heart. Good people will speak even tough words kindly. All the others, just don’t matter.

  7. 1. I agree with all your points.
    2. I agree with everyone that you’re awesome.
    3. I can’t believe anyone would think your books are 1 star. Ridiculous. But you’re right – it’s their opinion.
    4. I love your aggressive driving pitch. You should totally contact SHA. And if it ever makes it on TV, I know I’ll see it.
    5. I think you just increased the sales for crab dip. There might be a shortage by the time the weekend is out. I know I want some.
    6. 🙂

  8. I don’t really know what to say apart from, you’re brilliant! I loved your Crab Dip analogy and it makes me so sad that blogger friends are taking down their blogs because of bullies, or are getting STALKED (seriously, this is terrifying!).

    THANKYOU for posting this, Brigid!

  9. Pretty sure this is the best analogy I’ve seen for this situation. I’m going to remember it the next time I feel like taking my blog down because of the hostilities.

    (Also, you’re awesome. I’m reading Spark right now and LOVING it. I wondered what was going on with Gabriel when I read Storm and now I’m learning. It’s awesome. :D)

  10. You already know what I think but *hugs*
    You’re amazing, Brigid! Really, at the end of the day, we’re all here for the same reason: we love books. Whether reading them, writing them, or anything in between (maybe not burning them) and it all needs to stop, so we can get back to what we all love doing 😀

    Also: crab dip *shudders*

  11. Aw, Brigid you, this post, EVERYTHING is amazing, well, except for the bullying part which TOTALLY SUCKS. I love that your one of the authors who is playing the “bigger person” role. It must feel like CRAP when you find out someone doesn’t like something you’ve poured hours upon hours of your time over, getting it JUST right, pouring your blood, sweat, tears and heart and soul into, whether it be a cake, crab dip or your novel. I can imagine that it musn’t be a good feeling AT ALL but it’s good to see authors like you not making a huge fuss over and just accepting it. Were all different, like differnt things, have differnt personalities, have different traits, the key word being differnt. We aren’t going to like every book we read (you as a reader can probably relate to that) and I think authors need to accept this and move on.

    BRILLIANT POST, BRIGID! Sorry it took me so long to get on over. I can seriously suck when it comes to commenting. <3

  12. I love your post! I’m glad you didn’t respond to the blogger. I so want to comment on those reviews that make fun of books. Whether a book is good or bad according to the reviewer, there is no need to tear a book apart to the level that they do. I don’t comment because I’m afraid of being a target myself. Kind of like authors are I guess. I just wish it would all stop.

    I think you’ve got a great attitude and hope you won’t let the bullies ever keep you from writing. And I’ll never enter the fray. I’m sure I’d like you’re SIL’s crab dip. Even if I didn’t, I’d never say so. I think the world needs to be a nicer place. And I’m a firm believer in Karma!


  13. This is such a brilliant post. I just find this whole situation so ridiculous and horrible and out of hand… it’s gotten INSANE. I mean really, that thing about the phone call FREAKED ME OUT. Like really, is this where we’ve gotten? That people are being threatened like that over a stupid review? WHO CARES? It’s like you said. Book reviews are so subjective… Obviously not everyone is going to feel the same about one. Ugh. But seriously, thank you so much for writing this post 🙂 I think it’s amazing and I am totally starting the slow clap over here!

    And the crab dip thing. I WAS DYING. I’ve never actually had crab dip (vegetarian) but omg, it’s perfect.

    Thanks for sharing, Brigid! <3


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