No, this isn’t about the further adventures of “whatever-it-is” that rattles around the apartment, though “it” will be mentioned briefly, in the introduction. No, this post is about online bullying.
Let me preface this to state, it’s not been a good week.
I got restless on Sunday night – late Sunday night – and decided to go down and leave some mail out for the postman to take. So I opened my apartment door and left it open for the kitties to ramble up and down the stairs if they wished, went downstairs, opened the front door, went outside to set the mail out, turned around and…
…realized I had locked myself out.
I was dressed only in pajamas. Barefoot. It was about 1 AM. About 58 degrees without wind, though that would pick up later.
My downstairs neighbor and friend Nancy was at work, working an overnight shift. So I spent about 8 1/2 hours outside, on the porch, until she came home. We live in a 2-story house with two apartments, one upstairs (mine) and one downstairs (hers).
The good news is, I don’t think it’s possible to break into our house. I tried, even attempting to throw a patio table (with metal legs) through the door window – it just bounced off.
The bad news is, I got quite ill from the experience. “Exposure” is a real thing, folks.
We now have extra keys hidden outside to prevent this from happening again.
And the “ghost”? You’d think that something that can fling a bunch of objects off a dresser would be able to unlock/open a door, wouldn’t you? Useless thing!
So, not a good start to the week. But it was starting to “go south” earlier that evening, when I was online.
Before I so stupidly locked myself out, I had engaged in a conversation of sorts on Facebook, with some fans of, yes, you guessed it, General Hospital. It was a subgroup of people who like two of the actors on the show, whose characters are engaged to one another.
These people are a bit on the strange side, I think, but I also think their behavior is rather typical of social media childishness.
You see, they like the pairing so much, that they are “enemies” with another group of fans who would like to see the actor’s character paired with another actress’ character.
And both “sides” are quite nasty about it.
That wasn’t why I joined. I thought this group was just a positive expression of fan appreciation.
Boy, was I wrong!
Someone had posted an article about the actor’s storyline (back from the dead, new face, no one recognises him, etc), and tried to say that if it were her husband, in real life, she would know who he was from his mannerisms and so on.
The implication was, “Not like that dummy he’s married to” – which, of course, is the character’s on-screen wife – and the female character that this group really hates.
I commented that it would be very unlikely that would ever happen in real life, but even if it did, how many people actually would think that a stranger in town is really their dead husband with a new face? (Who, by the way, has amnesia, so he can’t tell anyone who he is because he doesn’t know)
I also said it was not really fair to compare a soap plotline to real life. And that maybe it would be good to be more positive and not focus on the character people dislike, but on the character who is supposed to be the focus of the page.
I ended it with, “We’re better than that!”
It was not a tirade, by any means. But, wow.
Someone wrote a long missive about why she thought the author was right, and so on, and I commented, “Ok, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree”, after actually agreeing with one thing she said (I was trying to be nice).
Then someone jumped in and wanted to know why I thought the author was bashing the character. Because, in the online world, if someone implies something (and it’s quite clear what they meant by it), and you want to start an argument, then you have to get literal and demand to know exactly what was said, line for line, so you can state that, oh no, that really wasn’t the implication.
I have neither the time nor the energy to respond to that. I recognise abuse when I see it, and this kind of thing routinely happened to me when I was in my last relationship. He would challenge and pick and on and on and on until I was in tears over the most trivial of things.
So I stated that I just was expressing an opinion and wouldn’t say more about it, since I had upset people.
Wow, was that the wrong thing to say!
To prove how “not-upset” several posters were, they flooded the page with demands that I tell them exactly how the author was bashing the character, and also demanding that I tell them exactly how they were upset.
Ignoring it was fruitless, as it just kept snowballing.
So I quit the group. Sent a message to the admin stating I wasn’t going to be bullied, but I did appreciate the work she has done on the page – as she is a nice person and wasn’t involved in any of this.
You have to understand, this group does things like post pictures of their beloved character brandishing a gun (photoshopped, the character doesn’t use guns on the show) with captions implying she ought to murder this other character.
I do not see that as “harmless fun”. I do not see that as “it’s just the internet”.
These things, these ideas, come from peoples’ minds, and it takes a particularly warped mind to come up with violent posts like that.
I mean, really – do you ever have those kinds of thoughts about anyone, TV character or not?
I don’t thnk most normal people do.
To then attempt to defend it by stating, “It’s only a TV show”, or “It’s only the internet” is really disingenuous because the fact of the matter is, someone is expressing a violent fantasy of theirs.
And that’s scary.
Most of us who were taught from a very early age to empathize with others and to not use violence to resolve conflict do not ever deal with anyone, fictional or not, animal or human, in a violent manner.
It just doesn’t occur to us.
I brought this up in a post on Facebook last night, stating only that I didn’t understand fans who wished violence on characters, or called them names and so on, and that I had quit a group because of it.
I didn’t name the group.
One poster responded she didn’t mind character-bashing, what she didn’t like was fans bashing the actual actor/actress.
I agreed and added that my problem with it was, once you do not agree with what someone has said (such as calling a character a slut) or suggest they not bash characters that way, then they turn on you.
The next thing I knew, my post was flooded with these people from the group I just quit, and as soon as I saw the first name I knew it wasn’t going to be nice. So I didn’t read any posts but the last one, which read “Maybe you should quit this group too, because you complain too much.”
This situation I found myself in is really mild, as far as bullying goes. I have read some things that “trolls” and others have posted online that ought to be criminal (and probably are), such as threatening to rape or kill someone. Things that have driven women offline, or caused them to change their addresses/phone numbers and so on.
So, in the grand scheme of things, this is not important. And, like I said, I didn’t bother reading any of the posts – why upset myself that way?
I have a sneaking suspicion that, as described in my previous blog posts, some of these women are of the same ilk as the room mothers who told me not to come back to the school carnival (see the post entitled “Just Bring Cups”). Women who really do not like other women, outside of their own little clique.
Sometimes I wonder how far we’ve really evolved, when we are still behaving like the kids in “Lord of the Flies”, ready to pounce on anyone who doesn’t fit in. Trying to drive people offline, or worse. It’s really pathological, and scary.
And thinking that these people do not do real damage in their real lives, I think, is a mistake.
As a therapist, I find it all disturbing. As a woman, I wonder why we seem to be disproportionately singled out. As a human, I am sad for everyone who’s a target.
Today’s weirdness comes from a website called “Science Alert”, and it’s an article stating that NASA is fairly sure there is water on Mars (everyone cheer!!), but that they can’t get a sample of it (everyone boo!!). It has to do with contamination, and a treaty signed in 1967 forbidding “anyone sending a mission, robot or human, close to a water source in the fear of contaminating it with life from Earth” (“Here’s Why NASA’s Mars Rovers are Banned from Investigating that Liquid Water”, BEC Crew, Science Alert website, 9/3/2105).
My recommendation for the week is a cute cozy mystery about a chef, his friend, and a pig called Hamilton: “Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle”, by British author J. L. Lang.
Be good. Be kind – online and off.
With all due respect, you (and I, because I am just as guilty), should know better.
The days of any kind of pleasant or even civil discourse on topics even as innocuous as a tv show are long, long gone. We, as a “culture”, have gotten to the point where posting to social media or really anywhere on the internet has become a blood sport.
Some people have nothing better to do than parse every single word that you write so they can take it out of context or deliberately misinterpret it, and then let attack you for being stupid, naive, unpatriotic, an atheist, or just plain wrong.
Apparently there is a very large segment of the population who feel that their lives suck so badly that the only way they can feel better about themselves is to attack and belittle someone else. They look for excuses, and like a rat getting into your home, will find the smallest possible entrance and squeeze through.
It’s like they are saying “my life is totally f**ed, so every one else has to pay.”
And this group seems to be growing larger by the day. A sign of the times, I suppose.
Courtesy and respect are passe, except for old timers like me, I’m afraid. In fact, in today’s climate, they are probably a sign of weakness. And then it’s like a school of sharks smelling blood in the water.
This is one of the many reasons that I rarely post on Facebook. I have better thing to do than defend myself against someone else’s idea of what I said… whether or not I actually said it.
My apologies if I come off sounding like a bitter old man… which is probably what I am anyway. But I at least try to be one of those old fashioned types that shows respect until you give me a reason not to.
My advice to younger people is a quote from John Prine, “Blow Up Your TV, throw away your paper, move to the country, build you a home.”
My favorite bumper sticker reads “The More I Learn About People, The More I Love My Dog”…
So, so true.
Very true words, those. I should know better, absolutely, but I always have this tendency to assume people are operating on those basic principles of politeness, rationality, and WYSIWYG. It’s my default, and it’s woefully outdated.
I think the only reasons I stick it out are:
1. No one is going to bully me, ever again, online or offline
2. Someone’s got to model what polite, rational discourse looks like
3. Occasionally I meet another person who is also astounded by the breast-beating and brow-beating that occurs online
At least I had the presence of mind to NOT respond, when told to quit because I complain, “Naw, it’s good fodder for my blog!”
I can only imagine the kind of garbage I would have to wade through in the “approve comments” section of my dashboard!
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Victoria, I like the idea of hiding a key to your home outside. But I heard the best place to put it is in a neighbor’s yard (with permission). If a nefarious person finds the key, he or she won’t know whose front door it unlocks.
That’s a good idea. Thanks!