Cyber Bullies vs. Cyber Lynch Mobs—Does Anyone Win?

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Humanity has been gifted with this lovely new invention…the internet. For the first time in human history, we can connect and even befriend people all over the world. We can easily research, whether that is for a novel we’re planning or to figure out why we broke out in weird spots after eating pistachios. There is also a never-ending supply of entertainment and we never have to ever be bored again…

Yeah.

Okay, that alone could be a whole book (my POV is that us being bored more often might be good for us) but that isn’t what I’d like to talk about today.

Today? *takes deep breath and dives in*

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On Monday, a cover model who’s posed for numerous covers had well, he…ok he lost his ever-loving MIND. As I was watching the scenario unfold, I kept wanting to type a message to him.

For the love of chocolate…SHUT UP.

But he didn’t and his career is over. And please understand what I’m saying here. Blizzard Man was completely out of line and what he said (threatened) is even unforgivable. If we are going to use the internet to build our professional brand, then we need to treat cyberspace for what it is…our place of work.

Now, granted it is the coolest place of work ever and it has yoga pants and snacks and is very casual. No one minds us sharing cute kitten videos so long as we get our work done…

But it IS still a place of work and he forgot that.

And so did a lot of other people.

As I watched the reaction to this model’s comments, I grew more and more concerned for what the Internet is doing to us as human beings. Where is the kindness or even grace? When someone acts really badly, why is there a need to not just shame the behavior…but to obliterate the person on the other side?

Why must cyber bullies be met with even more vicious cyber-lynch mobs? Does anyone really win?

Is on-line outrage out of control?

All I could think of when I saw video after video being posted calling this model names and just going after him on a deeply personal level was… Dear GOD, please don’t let him commit suicide.

I wish I were joking.

I’ve witnessed this behavior happening more and more in cyberspace to people who haven’t even committed as grievous of an offense as said cover model. There was a comedian several months ago who did a funny video but it was regarding a dicey subject. There was nothing in that video that warranted the reaction that followed. Comments on her YouTube channel that said things like:

Bit*&, I hope you are raped and then hit in the head with a brick.

Really?

Just really.

And the cover model, as awful as he was…got a similar comment. Someone hoped he was raped.

Please tell me we are better than this. Because if not?

And Grumpy Cat

This universal connectivity has created the ability to create cyber-lynch mobs. Something ignites and people just go crazy. Instead of simply disagreeing, they start typing in threats that in person? They could go to JAIL for saying something like that.

What is even scarier is that a cyber-lynch mob can form over even seemingly innocent stuff. Anyone can become a target. I’ve been on the other side of them, myself (sadly, more than once). The most memorable time? I made the fatal mistake of positing that bookstores could do a better job of supporting authors (for our mutual benefit, btw). The HORROR!

I seriously had writers who commented and called me everything but a writer. The favorite name for me? C*nt.

What? Are you THREE? Do you even own a thesaurus?

It is the JOB of authors to point out flaws in the system, in society and the world. We do this to make it a better place and sometimes that might even involve going after some sacred cows. We are supposed to question everything. Everyone doesn’t need to agree all the time.

Seriously.

Once in tenth grade I disagreed with someone and guess what? I lived to tell the tale😛 .

Gleeful Savagery

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If we have been on-line any amount of time, we’ve heard tales of people who’ve been targeted by cyber-lynch mobs. What is sad is that often this cruelty has come on the heels of a badly executed joke or a tweet taken out of context.

There was a man in Santa Clara, CA who was at a conference for tech developers when a silly joke popped in his head. According the the NY Times:

It was about the attachments for computers and mobile devices that are commonly called dongles. He murmured the joke to his friend sitting next to him, he told me. “It was so bad, I don’t remember the exact words,” he said. “Something about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle, a ridiculous dongle. . . . It wasn’t even conversation-level volume.

Right after making the joke to a friend, a woman nearby stood and took a picture of him then tweeted to her 9K+ friends that he was making sexist jokes about big dongles right behind her. The next day he was fired.

And it gets worse…

After he posted about being fired, an even more vitriolic backlash ensued against the woman who started the incident, which included enough death threats to make her leave home and sleep on friends’ couches for the next year.

This is freaking RIDICULOUS.

We Used to Take It for What it Was

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Trust me, every day I am super glad I was an adult by the time social media came along. I think of all the dumb crap I would have done or said or written and how that could have made my life turn out very differently. In the 90s if a joke bombed and came out offensive instead of funny? The worst I probably got was an eye-roll or maybe even a quick chewing out and I knew to correct my behavior.

I didn’t fear my entire world would be nothing but ash by lunchtime. I also didn’t expect a barrage of death threats or people hoping I was raped and hit in the head with a brick (like the poor comedian). In fact, I am pretty sure that would have been grounds for a police investigation.

And if we crossed that uncrossable line? Sure there were consequences but these days? DAYUM.

All I can think of is if Blizzard Man had made the comment he did in 1993, he surely wouldn’t have had 745 people who had already directly taken a swing at him by dinner time.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Fraser Mummery

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Fraser Mummery

Crime & Punishment

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When I see these on-line debacles, it always brings to mind one of my favorite scenes from the movie Demon Knight. Two main characters in the opening scene collide in a fiery crash on a remote road. The sheriff and his deputy arrive to work the scene and are inspecting the wreckage.

The deputy is incensed and, waving his ticket book says, “They had to be doing over a hundred miles an hour!”

The sheriff looks at him and replies, “Well you can shoot their ashes if it makes you feel better.”

What all of us are wise to remember is that in life, when an alleged crime is committed, there is intense evidence gathering to make sure there was really a crime. Then punishment befitting the crime is meted out. But on-line? So often people jump to right a wrong without any such evidence-gathering and the consequences can be devastating.

Case in point, I once got a really offensive sexual message from another writer. Instead of copying and pasting and railing against how tacky and disgusting this woman was, how she was using Facebook to sexually harass me…I stopped and thought.

Hmmm, that’s odd. I’ve never had this person act in such a way. Let me message her back.

And it turned out her account had been hacked. She wasn’t even aware such messages were being sent from her profile and catastrophe was averted simply because I gave another human the benefit of the doubt.

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On the other side of this coin, I was once publicly shamed for liking an off-color meme that was politically explosive. Thing was? I’d accidentally hit it while scrolling on my android phone. Instead of the public shaming, why didn’t I get a PM that said, Hey, Kristen. You go out of your way to be funny and kind and this awful meme has your “like” on it. Did you do that?

But that didn’t happen and let’s just say it’s a good thing I have rhino skin.

***Oh, and btw, people also have a right to have poor taste in the event I DID actually like the meme😛 .

Yes, there are times (like Blizzard Man) that there is a direct offense, but we also need to remember that technology does have glitches. Toddlers DO get ahold of phones. Accounts can be hacked. And—to be blunt—everyone has a bad day.

I get that we are all over this “everything on the Internet is FOREVER” schtick and maybe that was acceptable before we all lived more on the Internet than in the real world.

But is this reasonable?

In life if we lose our minds, say something awful or even offend people, we don’t fear a permanent death sentence and banishment from the human race.

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Sure, discuss what’s going on. Maybe even make light of it. Joke. I do. Heck! Even criticize. Nothing at all wrong with this. Unless we want a world where foaming-at-the-mouth bullies are the only ones shaping social and political change, regular folk need to feel okay sharing more than kitten memes.

The internet can be as amazing or as awful as we make it. Like anything it is a tool. We can use a shovel to dig a grave or plant a garden. The choice is ours.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on the wrong end of a social media dog-pile? That something innocent got way out of control? Do you think that the cyber-lynch mobs are starting to shape how people are acting in person? Do you think that now that humans are spending more time in cyberspace we need to learn to lighten the hell up?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

Upcoming Classes!!!

Remember that all WANA classes are recorded so if you miss, can’t make it or just want to refresh the material, this is included with purchase price. The classes are all virtual and all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to enjoy!

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages MAY 14th. The first five pages are one of our best selling tools. We fail to hook the reader and that is a lost sale. In this class, we go over the art of great beginnings. Additionally, the upper levels Gold and Platinum I actually LOOK at your pages and critique your actual writing. I am offering DOUBLE PAGES for FREE so this is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a pro.

When Your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors MAY 16th. The single largest challenge all writers face in the digital age is discoverability. In a sea of infinite choices, connecting with our audience can be a nightmare. Our brand is our lifeline. What is a brand? How do we create one? How do we entice an overwhelmed and distracted audience to connect and care? How do we develop this brand over time? How can we make this brand resilient to upheavals? How can this brand then grow and evolve as we grow and evolve?

Blogging for Authors MAY 20th. Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

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  1. #1 by angel on May 11, 2016 - 11:46 am

    I was literally thinking about blogging on this myself today, but thank goodness you did it for me. What he did was wrong but I don’t understand the lack of professionalism in the book biz. I own another “real world” business and TRUST ME, my customers make me insane. Some are rude. Some are terrible. Some just really really annoying. Sometimes I want to be terrible back to them, but I don’t because I have to face these people, their real world reviews actually affect my business and I don’t know…its just harder to be horrible face to face. Every day I see things on the internets relating to book business that I would NEVER consider in my “real job.” Ever.

    Frankly, if someone is being a jerk or is terrible, stop working with them and move on. No need to get out the pitchforks. Hurting them in the pocket is always the best way to do it. Thanks for posting. Will reblog and tweet.

    • #2 by Newt Johnson on May 11, 2016 - 2:08 pm

      Nicely put. It’s unfortunate that “real world” people seem to also be getting more rude and out-front with complaints; your restraint is admirable. Keep on keeping on. You’re doing it right.

  2. #3 by John Bingham on May 11, 2016 - 12:11 pm

    Well said. Thank you.

  3. #4 by Judy DaPolito on May 11, 2016 - 12:12 pm

    Thanks for posting this. The hateful things people are willing to say to each other on the internet are indefensible, and I’m glad you pointed that out so clearly and in such detail. We all need to think before we write–or at least reread what we’ve written and make sure it’s civil before we post it.

  4. #5 by S.K. Rizzolo on May 11, 2016 - 12:13 pm

    Pretty scary out there, isn’t it? I tend to stay in safe zones like this site and avoid the kind of rabid nonsense you describe. I admire your bravery, Kristen. You always tackle important topics!

  5. #6 by Dave Walker on May 11, 2016 - 12:18 pm

    Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of wondering whether the internet is a boon or bane to humanity. On the one hand, we have an ease of access to information unparalleled in history, and we have the ability to interact with people throughout the world at the click of a button.
    On the other hand, it also allows the most hateful, hurtful voices on the planet a platform from which to spew their vitriol that they never had before. And they know that they can carry out their attacks with the courage that comes from anonymity or knowing that they are too far away (geographically) for anyone to hold them accountable for their words. Then, the people who read their words come away with a skewed view of the world, wondering if everyone is so hateful. It’s a tragic downward spiral in many cases.
    And, unfortunately, the internet is also, most likely, the biggest disseminator of false information ever devised.
    Sadly, it’s now become so interwoven with our culture that there would be no way to fix it short of crashing it completely and starting over, which is clearly not an option.
    I guess the best we can do is to take care of our own backyard and, as you said, don’t jump to conclusions and knee jerk reactions. We can try calling those people out who post that hateful garbage, but only a small fraction of them would even take the time to consider our words before lashing out at us as well.
    Sometimes I like that I’m a quiet introvert. 🙂

  6. #7 by annethewriter on May 11, 2016 - 12:22 pm

    It’s a shame that there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly debate’ anymore. Even if there’s a realization that maybe a line has been stepped over, instead of backing off the ‘haters’ get even more voracious. And, they’re spurred on by the pitchfork carrying crowd. Sigh… I keep reminding myself that kindness is the greater part of valour and walk away when someone tries to pick a virtual fight.

  7. #8 by Darke Conteur on May 11, 2016 - 12:26 pm

    Yeah, I read the article and went to his Facebook page and it was a nightmare.It reminded me of the disastrous EL James hashtag promo a few months back, remember that?. I don’t care for her writing style and I didn’t buy any of her books or any of the other merchandise that went with the movies (although I will admit the nail polish collection from OPI has caught my attention), but when the authors attacked her with such vicious comments…geez, it was the first time I actually felt sorry for the woman.

  8. #9 by historewriter on May 11, 2016 - 12:28 pm

    Road rage! Seriously, I think the most violent backlash comes from the folks who don’t have–or can’t make–as logical an argument as their target. Because in cyber world (and politics) all you have to do is rip someone a new one or call them a particularly bad name and BAM! you’ve won the argument.

    YES, let’s find ways of setting better examples. All this advice to go BIG or go home with your presence on the Internet. . .well, that can be misinterpreted, abused, taken too far.

  9. #10 by bethanyk on May 11, 2016 - 12:29 pm

    This was awesome.,

  10. #11 by dianaflegal on May 11, 2016 - 12:34 pm

    I choose to dig a garden. Thanks again Kristen for speaking wisdom into a crazy mixed up world.

  11. #12 by Simon on May 11, 2016 - 12:45 pm

    Hi ya Kristen, this is a really good post and it points out all that’s wrong with social media. I and my family were at the wrong end of it recentky when my din threw some eggs at the oaths outside someones house. He shouldn’t have done it, but it didn’t need a near Facebook hate campaign started against us, police called and other crap.
    My son has behavioral issues which we do our best to solve but hitting him isn’t going to do anything but make it worse and these people don’t see this.
    I ignored the post… I couldn’t be fucked to answer, but it upset me.

    BTW, I remember your bookshop post, you really got hated for that? Fucks sake… you’re a star Kristin. Love your posts.

  12. #13 by lonnyleebooks on May 11, 2016 - 12:45 pm

    I’ve been following your blog somewhat recently and have liked/loved all your posts thus far. This one so far got me fired up! I am in complete agreement of all the points given and how awful cyber bullying is!
    There is no respect for freedom of speech, thoughts or ideas that can be or are politically incorrect and there is a huge difference between disliking something and hating something with an intense verbal rage.
    I have a complete disregard for people that feel the need to make themselves important by belittling others especially when it comes to writers.
    Thank You for your post and all others that have undoubtedly inspired me and kept me motivated. I’m sure you get plenty of appreciation for what you do, but I do feel the need to show you some myself today.

  13. #14 by wanderlustywriter on May 11, 2016 - 1:02 pm

    It’s insane. The weird thing is, I don’t know a SINGLE PERSON in real life who spends time arguing with people on the Internet/goes around calling strangers names. (At least, that’s what they tell me.) And yet so many people engage in this behavior! Why can’t we all live by the rule, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? The worst insult to someone in this attention-based new world we’ve created is IGNORING them. So when I see stupid things online, that is what I do. Ignore. Not worth my time, or theirs.

    Thanks for writing this, though I get the feeling you’re preaching to the choir!

  14. #15 by 1authorcygnetbrown on May 11, 2016 - 1:06 pm

    What a timely message especially right now when religious and political comments especially bring people who think you’re an idiot for thinking the way you do and are not afraid to say what they think. A friend once told me that, “what they say reflects them, not you. Its how you respond that reflects you, not the other way around.”

    You mentioned that mobs jump in when they see someone who seems vulnerable to their comments.

    Also you mentioned individuals getting hacked and someone saying something and to quietly go and PM another person. Recently friends of mine have had their FB page copied and the copy-cat tries who is trying to make us think that they are actually the friend, asks us to friend us on FB. Whenever we find this happening, we post a comment on our friend’s real page saying that we think that they have been “hacked” and that alerts other friends not to friend who they think is that person. The same could be done with cyber-bullies. Friends defending a friend and telling the bully that what the bully is saying is not good behavior.

    I agree too that things that should be private should be handed through PM rather than in a post. Even when we want what we have to say to be seen by a specific group of friends, PMs allow for group participation that doesn’t need to be put out on the clothes line everyone to see!

  15. #16 by Michael J Lawrence on May 11, 2016 - 1:15 pm

    The way people often behave on the Internet demonstrates very clearly why the justice system we use today is so important. Advocates arguing over evidence according to rules called law is a process developed specifically to avoid the tendency of human nature to condemn without due consideration.

  16. #17 by Amy on May 11, 2016 - 1:16 pm

    Great post as usual, Kristen! I *HATED* what the cover model said. But like you I grew more and more concerned as the day went on. Sure, this is America and everyone has the right to be an a$$h@t, but how many people do they have to take down with them? Surely soon, we’ll stop the insanity. (And sorry for calling you Shirley. lol)

  17. #18 by philosophermouseofthehedge on May 11, 2016 - 1:19 pm

    Well said and great applause.
    Quite sick of the attack mode cyber lynch mobs – frequently filled with those foaming at the mouth who do not have a clue of the real facts – or have any inclination to check it out like a sane person would. It’s mob mentality. Desire to be happily part of a huge crowd who is right ( and everyone else is wrong and evil)
    I like the caption/picture of the woman with the cup. People need to rediscover the value of “public” and “private”.
    Old phrase: “Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open mouth and remove all doubt.”
    Once again, best blog post read today

  18. #19 by Laura on May 11, 2016 - 1:24 pm

    This is exactly why I am taking time away from social media right now. I’ve already been off FB for almost a year – I logged on the other day for the first time in 11 months and found out a formerly very good friend is having a baby… in three weeks. People don’t communicate without social media anymore. Ah well. I will probably tweet from the writing workshop I’m attending next month, but I’m “on sabbatical” from my pen name account for a couple of months. People are just so angry – about everything. I tried following all the “cool” writing people I could find, but they all seem angry or on a mission to make sure no one writes anything other than completely politically correct, non-humorous literary fiction with at least one character from every race and every possible gender and/or orientation, and you MUST spend every cent you have on sensitivity reads from people within those communities before publishing, and if even one does not like it, you must not publish.

    I haven’t been writing much lately. I’m about to give up. I’m going to re-read Breakfast of Champions.

  19. #20 by Shea McIntosh Ford on May 11, 2016 - 2:01 pm

    Oh, yes. I just went through this. Forgive me for being a bit cryptic. Someone misunderstood the policies of the company I’m with and found them exclusionary to a particular group of people. It truly wasn’t, but he saw it that way. Instead of thinking it through, and contacting the owner of the company, he wrote a libeling blog post that went viral in certain circles and hurt a lot of people. Meanwhile, if he had just stopped to think about it, the company HE’S with is even MORE exclusionary to other groups of people. It’s just not as popular to be that kind of a victim.

    What really burns me is when the pendulum swings too far the other way and those who were oppressed begin to be the oppressors. I HATE that.

    • #21 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2016 - 2:20 pm

      And what is worse is I am fairly sure there is no such thing as libel anymore. I once had a blogger GROTESQUELY misquote me for the premise of a post. Was it innocent? Perhaps. I believe this person was using smearing my good name as click bait…and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

      • #22 by Shea McIntosh Ford on May 11, 2016 - 2:28 pm

        Ugh. The golden rule got tossed in the trash by way too many people lately. I blame the internet for that.

  20. #23 by Newt Johnson on May 11, 2016 - 2:27 pm

    Kristen, thanks for another edifying (and pictorially funny) blog post.

    I’m constantly amazed at how folks forget what Internet social media engines are, in essence. Imagine standing in front of a large bulletin board inside a a very large, extremely public virtual bus station, where the incoming and outgoing traffic is constant and eternal. You can put anything you want on your bulletin board. ANYthing. By the same token, anyone who sees your board can say whatever they want about it, truth or lies, for as long as they want. They might re-post it in places you’d never want it seen. And you can’t do a damn thing about it, once you’ve displayed it on your board.

    This is my issue about setting up an author website, or a FB page. I intend to carefully consider everything I post on my social media bulletin boards, which really leaves me with little to say in public. I write, I’m an introvert, I like dogs and cats. I enjoy fishing and needlework. That’s about it. (If it sounds like I lead a relatively dull life, well, hey. What can I say? At least I’m not getting dragged to a lynching somewhere in the virtual landscape. Not yet, anyway.)

    … but truly, what can a new author do and say without making him or herself a target? ….

  21. #24 by coldhandboyack on May 11, 2016 - 2:33 pm

    Outstanding post. Character assassination, and out-shouting online are rampant. It’s even prevalent in politics now. I don’t watch the national news these days because of it. People still have the right to believe whatever they want. The mobs would burn their lives for not believing as the mob wants.

    • #25 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2016 - 2:50 pm

      It is getting terrifying. I have never seen an election where people should be rightly afraid to put a candidate’s sign in their yard for fear of having their home torched. It is INSANE. And these are not peaceful protests, they’re riots. It is out and out voter intimidation. It is as if this mentality is impacting how we act in person.

      For instance there is no big difference in a grasshopper and a locust. A locust is simply a grasshopper who has become part of a MOB. Locusts look and act like regular grasshoppers…until reaching a certain population density. Then they go cray-cray. I kid you not, by becoming part of a mob, the insect goes through PHYSICAL changes in color and shape. It’s as if the same thing is happening to people.

      Young teens beating a girl to death while onlookers film her murder for YouTube. We are creating a culture of narcissistic sociopaths and we are going to have to actively fight it. Even if all we are is light in a vastly dark place.

      • #26 by coldhandboyack on May 11, 2016 - 3:01 pm

        So true. I love the grasshopper analogy, it’s perfect. Personally, I want a mulligan on the whole election. Even on local issues they import “witnesses” and try to shout down any thought but the answer they seek. Keep your head down and do what you can.

      • #27 by coldhandboyack on May 11, 2016 - 3:03 pm

        On a second review, maybe we ought to start teaching rhetoric in the schools again. At least the next generation could call bullshit, and understand why it’s bullshit.

        • #28 by Deborah Makarios on May 11, 2016 - 6:51 pm

          Yes, yes, yes! Spread the sanity! As Dorothy Sayers wrote, “We let our young men and women go out unarmed in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects…”
          Imagine what she would have made of the internet.

  22. #29 by ariefarnam on May 11, 2016 - 2:41 pm

    Excellent and thought provoking blog post. I have a question and you may be one of the few people with enough experience and technical understanding of the internet to actually have a real answer. I get at least half a dozen “force adds” to groups and events each day. I am not on the internet constantly. I have an offline business, a life, kids, urban homesteading, all kinds of things. It happens that I’m not on for a day (gasp) or even slightly more at times. The results can be disastrous. If I’m forcibly added to a group and then the spammer (er.. organizer) then posts 20 spam bits to the group, each one ends up as a separate email in my inbox. I have limited time and I’m blind. No, it is not an easy thing to just go find all those emails among my real emails and delete them. And that is from one spam-force-add. I get between 6 and 12 of these every day and any one of them can result in 20 spam emails. I have resorted to posting outraged messages on the spammers walls, followed by blocking. I tried asking nicely but this is an avalanche. How can I ask every rock in an avalanche not to bury me? I want it to stop. It’s abuse and it seriously infringes on my own sanity and livelihood. Any advice?

    • #30 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2016 - 2:46 pm

      Ugh, yeah I hate that, too! I don’t think people should be allowed to add us to groups without out consent. I regularly go through and un-join groups I’ve been added to, so that might be something you can do. Also, write to FB and complain. The internet is evolving and I think FB will eventually have to do something about this because it is a common complaint.

      • #31 by ariefarnam on May 11, 2016 - 3:57 pm

        Of course, I leave the groups. It is the amount of spam I get in my email before I get a chance to leave that is the probme. It takes a lot of time to clean out and I don’t have much internet time.

    • #32 by Ontyre Passages on May 11, 2016 - 3:25 pm

      That happens to me and my FB presence is minimal. Like you, I was gone for awhile. If you’re on someone’s radar you end up in a group. On Twitter I have “writers” who follow me expecting me to reciprocate, which I normally do as a show of support. Minutes later the ads arrive. Yes, often it’s of the “buy my book” variety, which are tacky enough, but increasingly often they’re selling me tweets or offering to manage my life/career. How long before they’re selling “protection?”

      • #33 by ariefarnam on May 11, 2016 - 3:58 pm

        Oh dear! I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t have said that.😀 I can just see some hacker coming up with an app you can buy that keeps people from being able to force-add you and then they sell that. Viola! Selling protections.

        • #34 by Ontyre Passages on May 11, 2016 - 4:12 pm

          Exactly. That’s my writer imagination overriding my caution.:/ As terrible as all this is, I see the story potential, especially in a 1984 kind of way. I can look down the dark path and see that it has two sides: the Orwell side of alarm and the Hitler side of possibilities.

          • #35 by ariefarnam on May 12, 2016 - 1:53 am

            Run with it. Run with it.😀 I love a good dystopia.

  23. #36 by Ontyre Passages on May 11, 2016 - 2:59 pm

    The internet is human behavior accelerated, exploded, and magnified. Months or years have become minutes. Groundswell has become Krakatoa-like events. The internet is perhaps the greatest experiment in history, for it shows us what happens when the controls society places on itself are removed. There is tremendous good online, and even more potential, but how sad if it’s all constrained because the worst of human nature turns out to be the cyber cancer we couldn’t contain.

    • #37 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2016 - 3:03 pm

      I feel like we are being forced to act out “The Lord of the Flies.”

      • #38 by Ontyre Passages on May 11, 2016 - 3:18 pm

        Oh my gosh, absolutely! The informal rules are virtually gone and the more formal rules are crumbling. How long before there are cyber police and cyber identification we must produce to log on? Registered/certified editors, artists, bloggers, and who knows what else? I feel it coming, and at the accelerated pace cyberspace moves it isn’t that far off. Ten years or less? Five years?

  24. #39 by Lady Fancifull on May 11, 2016 - 3:18 pm

    I both hate and love the internet. There is an incredible generosity out there, and ‘virtual friendships’ get made, which perhaps happen because we don’t have to be attentive to our ‘virtuals’ in real time, but there is also much bad tempered spite that goes on, aggression and bullying. I think sometimes people facetwit stuff which is really just the kneejerk dialogues in their own heads – the kind of thing when someone barges into you, and IN YOUR HEAD you think ****!£££$$$^&&&&*& ###### !! but wouldn’t dream of physically coming out with that. But unfortunately, some people find the anonymity of the net is way too tempting as an excuse for venting

    And, yes, maybe we are through this losing a sense of why some observance of courtesy mattered, of restraining our kneejerks

    Not to mention the fact that the baying hounds of cyberbullying makes us all become more and more robotic – at least it does those in any kind of public life, you can see/hear the bland-speak self-censorship going on, and the glee with which the media shames public figures saying throwaway ‘off camera/mike remarks’ which happen to be picked up and get broadcast

  25. #40 by katsheridan on May 11, 2016 - 3:47 pm

    I must be seriously disconnected because I don’t even know who you’re talking about. But this came at the perfect time anyway. Someone posted something on Facebook that they thought was funny but that I found mean-spirited. I pointed out that body shaming and making fun of disabilities was not cool. I was told to lighten up, get a sense of humor or get off of social media. I’ve stewed about it for 24 hours. I was about to respond when I saw your post. So I’m simply unfollowing that person and going to have happy hour on my patio and admire my new bird feeder instead. Thank you.

  26. #41 by ellenchauvet on May 11, 2016 - 4:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire.

  27. #42 by Jan Graham on May 11, 2016 - 5:12 pm

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Kristen, and expressed them far more eloquently than I could have.

    One thing you didn’t mention and something I found astounding about both this recent situation and another similar disaster from about a year ago, was the way some of the lynch mob started making demands of their followers/friends. Anyone who was cyber friends with both the offender and the mobster being told they had to choose who to follow. One post I saw actually said if you don’t defriend this *insert swear word here* then I will assume you support him and I’ll defriend you and make sure others do as well.

    The mobster, who may have had the best of intentions with their initial reaction to the model’s bullying behavior, has now become a bully, threatening their entire friends list and attempting to silence anyone who opposed them. It worked.

    I made the choice NOT to reply to her post, although I would have liked to point out the irony of her words and behavior. Instead, fearing an irrational backlash from the mobster, my voice of reason sat in silence and shook her head.

    • #43 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2016 - 7:27 pm

      I saw that too and the Sassy Pants in me almost clicked “Like” on his page just to be defiant😛

  28. #44 by ajhawthorn on May 11, 2016 - 5:30 pm

    Thank you for expressing this. I think there was a lot of fanning the flames or poking a stick at the angry bear as well. I always tend to sit back and quietly watch. Think. For what it’s worth, I totally agree. *hugs*

  29. #45 by AmyRose🌹 on May 11, 2016 - 5:33 pm

    Shocking as it may seem, I honestly do not go anywhere on the internet except for WP and to do my online shopping. I do not use my smart phone except to efficiently get me to the likes that my friends have left on my blogs. Oh wait, I use the camera.🙂 I do not spend time on technology unless I have to. I am a photographer and just the time I take to edit my images on my laptop, is enough thank you! I like LIFE and that is without being connected to the internet. As it is people don’t even act like people for the most part in real life because of the tech gadget in their hands. This world has gotten crazy and to fight back I have made my own little world and try to stay away from the crazy world as much as I can. I too am a writer so I like my quiet, thank you. Great post and I honestly can say you are a great writer. I came here from Susan’s place where she must have reblogged this. Thank you for the write!!❤

  30. #46 by Sheila M. Good, Author on May 11, 2016 - 5:50 pm

    What a great post! I’m so sick of the nastiness on the net, I’m tempted to close all my accounts, but then the bullies would win and I’ll be damned if I let that happen. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

  31. #47 by Taara Donley on May 11, 2016 - 7:18 pm

    Great post. Unfortunately, I feel as if I’ve had to become an “expert” at dealing with hateful comments online. I recently had an article re-published on Scary Mommy about being the daughter of foreigners and the bigots always come out for that one. I’ve had people actually tell me to “crawl back to my third world country.” It’s sad, but I’ve just accepted that learning how to deal with internet venom comes with the job of being a writer now. Thank you for discussing an important issue.

  32. #48 by Soooz on May 11, 2016 - 7:49 pm

    Bravo! A gutsy post as always. reblogged and tweeted. Thank you,

  33. #49 by Soooz on May 11, 2016 - 7:50 pm

    Reblogged this on S Burke. Author and commented:
    A gutsy post from a gutsy lady. Tell me if you agree, or disagree with what is said.

  34. #50 by Angela on May 11, 2016 - 8:04 pm

    Thank you Kristen. I couldn’t agree more. Whatever happened to being able to discuss things and agree to disagree? It is Lord of the Flies out there.

  35. #51 by Allyson Greene (@BringMomCoffee) on May 11, 2016 - 8:28 pm

    I don’t know if we can ever go back to civility, but I really wish we would. The internet terrifies me, as a blogger and as the Mom of a teen and a far from teen!

  36. #52 by Lauren Craig on May 11, 2016 - 10:00 pm

    What did the poor blizzard man even say?

  37. #53 by Earnie Painter on May 11, 2016 - 10:50 pm

    Lovely to know what I have to look forward to. I suppose it’s a lesson in human behavior and mob mentality. It’s clearly very real, though it seems like something straight out of a Simpson’s episode.

  38. #54 by Mira Prabhu on May 12, 2016 - 12:28 am

    Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Cyber Bullies vs Cyber Lynch Mobs – Kristen Lamb’s terrific post…I enjoy Kristen’s outpourings because I feel the real person behind the words…check this out for yourself, as usual the visuals are a treat…

  39. #55 by Don Massenzio on May 12, 2016 - 6:35 am

    Great post. It is especially evident during this election season that the Internet has become an equalizer in that it gives equal voice to both the intelligent and the ignorant. There are days when I can’t stand to look at my Facebook feed. People embrace memes without validating the information in them and then the other side blasts them for their stupidity.

  40. #56 by Don Massenzio on May 12, 2016 - 6:36 am

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    This is a timely and well written post on the dubious power of social media.

  41. #57 by Sarah Rosinski on May 12, 2016 - 8:39 am

    People love to “stir the pot.”
    I love the term cyber-lynch-mob. Until I read this post, I hadn’t considered my opinion would/could cause such a riot. Time for a culture shift.

  42. #58 by Barbara Renner on May 12, 2016 - 9:11 am

    Great post, Kristen. And great comments by your followers. I can’t believe what some people will write as they hide behind their monitors. I usually just keep a low profile and post pictures of my dog and book covers. One time I made the mistake of commenting on something political – that was all it was, just a comment – well, I got attacked! I will share this blog on my website – if I can figure out how to do it – haha.

  43. #59 by Casey Sheridan on May 12, 2016 - 9:33 am

    I was on a social media hiatus this past weekend because I was tired of seeing all the hateful crap in my newsfeed. Then I come back on Monday and see all the Mr. Blizzard news.

    What he said was horrible, but the cyber-lynch mobs are just as bad.

    After reading your post, I realized that I’ve been really careful lately about the things I “Like” or comment on because I’m afraid. Afraid I’m going to end up on the wrong side of a lynch mob. And it isn’t like me to be afraid like that.

    People need to lighten up and not be so quick to take things out of context. Learn to filter things out and if in doubt, ASK. It’s easy to take things written online, in a text, email, or in a hand written letter (yes, I still do write things out. Bizarre, I know) out of context. I know I have a hard time understanding some things I read, but I ask for clarity.

    I think the cyber lynch mobs are a reflection of what’s happening in the real world. People are too quick and ready to be nasty than to step back and take a breath.

    Those people need to step outside of themselves to get some perspective. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Help out at a local animal rescue or shelter. Something! Because most of the the stuff that gets their panties in a bunch isn’t worth the expenditure of all that energy.

  44. #60 by TymberDalton on May 12, 2016 - 2:26 pm

    I think what really upset people (beside the heinous nature of the original comments he made) was when he was challenged on them, he not only backed off, he doubled-down on the asshattery and then made references to the fact that he’d gone to prison for “silenced weapons” (I believe the term was he used) and for shooting “bitches.”

    Um, wow.

    And it was on the heels of the Jackson Young cover model debacle, as well as another model being an asshat, so it was like he was the hat-trick of heinousery. (Is too a word.)

    And I get why people are sick and tired of this shit. I really do. We women live in a world where by turning down a guy’s sexual proposition, it could literally leave us open to being on the receiving end of violence. And these were romance cover models, who are in a female-dominated genre, both as writers and as readers.

    Ka-BOOM.

    Perfect storm.

    Playing Devil’s advocate, I agree that responding to his asshattery with death threats, etc. is over the top. But this particular incident and issue is far deeper than just this one incident. It’s a culmination of years of women, especially, feeling helpless, and for once they could dish back a tiny heaping of the mountains of crap that many of them had suffered.

    I saw a lot of good responses to this douchewad, and I saw some over-the-top crap. I agree that an attack mob is never a good thing, but also in this case, there are now three cover models from romlandia who basically won’t work in this business again. (And one of them, it is multiple real-world reports of him being handsy, stalking, intimidating, physically threatening to people, not just mean words over the Interwebs.)

    The good thing is, three asshats have been exposed.

    Even better? In response to what happened, cover models and artists came out of the woodwork, offering to help authors who had those three cover models on their books, for reduced costs or for FREE.

    So there was good to come of this. There usually is. In response to something bad happening, their is almost immediately a push-back of good in return to fill the void.

    At some point, however, people do need to temper their responses. I will admit to calling some people some names in these three events. Especially when they doubled-down on their douchery. But never did I ever call for violence or anything other than spreading the word (and screenshots) about what they did so that others could be aware of it. In the one case, calling out for people who were victims of the one model to post about it so they could get together with other victims for support.

    Where before a lot of people basically withdrew and suffered in silence, now they feel empowered to fight back, in some small way, even if it’s only breaking out the caps lock on an idiot.

    I know there is no easy answer here.

    • #61 by TymberDalton on May 12, 2016 - 2:27 pm

      I meant he not only DID NOT back off, he doubled-down… *need more coffee*

      • #62 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 12, 2016 - 3:40 pm

        Yeah, I watched it. He was completely out of line. And it was when folks started getting violent in return that I got really concerned. We should be better than the attacker. But I’m glad some good came of it.

        Yet I will say that he was just one of many examples regarding this kind of dog-piling. I’ve been on the bad side of a lynch mob and I am more than sure most of the folks who took a swing at me hadn’t even taken the time to get all the facts. They just saw a row and jumped in to hit me. These frenzies have a way of getting out of control.

  45. #63 by Rick Amitin on May 12, 2016 - 2:56 pm

    Great post. Bad manners are inexcusable. A good reminder of how to behave in public. Only weak ideas and arguments use bullying to communicate.

  46. #64 by Rachel Thompson on May 12, 2016 - 5:36 pm

    Mob psychology human nature always apply to human interactions even on the internet. The best way to beat the game is don’t play. The net is like people in cars that flip the bird at each other for not going fast enough over the speed limit and other such none sense– semi autonomous people allow their baser nature to fly freely. Independence from the mob-herd pisses off solid herd members whether they are members of the drive stupid club, a foot ball team or an internet group-think pod. Independent thinkers aren’t invited and we like it that way. Life outside of this herd dynamic is much better. When they flip the internet bird we just laugh.

    • #65 by Tahlia Newland on May 15, 2016 - 3:02 am

      Exactly and that’s why, I never ever engage with anyone or anything that smacks of bullying in any way.

  47. #66 by Elizabeth Rose on May 12, 2016 - 6:21 pm

    I think a lot of it has to do with anonymity. So much easier to say and do nasty things when you don’t have to look at the person you are doing them to. When they become a conglomeration of pixels rather than a person.

    Of course, mob mentality also plays in. Us versus them and all that.

    I am also surprised the horrible things people think to do to hurt each other, and how quickly they jump to rape and death. Very, very sad.

    While I firmly believe in free speech, I would also like to see things to protect people who become the target of death and rape threats online just as they would be protected if someone said that to them on the street, much less hundreds of people saying that to them.

  48. #67 by Marj on May 13, 2016 - 7:39 pm

    Great article!

  49. #68 by Dr Helen mendes Love on May 13, 2016 - 11:09 pm

    Thank you for writing such a powerful article. Keep up your good work!

  50. #69 by Tahlia Newland on May 15, 2016 - 3:00 am

    Oh yes, I’ve felt the bite. Several times from authors with ridiculously thin skins. I don’t review anymore. I’ve had my fill of trying to be honest with the aim of providing a healthy environment of peer criticism in the publishing industry when others try to bully you into giving them an extra star or taking down a review. talk about juvenile! I even wrote a novel, World Within Worlds, based on my and others experiences. I’m grateful that I was sane enough to know not to engage these people, but it didn’t stop them badmouthing and there are.plenty who will join in without knowing anything about the real situation. Reality and fiction are.sometimes.hard to tell apart.

  51. #70 by Flynn Gray on May 15, 2016 - 4:01 am

    Reblogged this on Flynn Gray and commented:
    There are many trolls and bullies on the Internet. And the temptation to start slinging hate back at them can become very strong, particularly when you are under personal attack or feel strongly about the issue being discussed. However, in such situations, nobody wins. I have a strict policy in my online dealings – do not engage with trolls and bullies. Just block and move on. I am all for the respectful debate of differing opinions, but public shaming, name-calling and death threats have no place in a respectful discussion.

    In the following article, Kristen Lamb discusses the hazards of the Internet, and points out that there are no winners in the hate wars that sometimes erupt online, which have the potential for far-reaching consequences in real life. ~ Flynn

  52. #71 by Adventurer at Heart on May 15, 2016 - 8:47 am

    I think that a great deal of the problem comes from the relative autonomy that the internet provides. People can make nasty, hurtful, threatening and unrelenting comments from the safety of anywhere in the globe without being in direct contact with the person. Yes, such people can be tracked down–if your a super savvy FBI investigator–but for most of us it’s a continuous ambush in the dark. People also think that this means that it’s okay to not be civil in there comments, something I try to avoid. For example, I don’t usually post comments about news articles that I read, or about comments that other people make, but I occasionally see something that stops me in my tracks and I have to say something. Except that I don’t insult the original poster, I don’t threaten their life or their family, and I don’t go tell them to die. I simply state my opinion on the matter and why I think their wrong–albeit, rather passionately. In short, I live by this ideal when posting things on the internet: if I wouldn’t say it in public I don’t say it in private. Helps you avoid a world of trouble.

  53. #72 by Stephan J Harper on May 16, 2016 - 7:30 am

    I wrote about this in a WordPress blogpost at MultiTouchFiction.com two YEARS ago! The link is provided at the end. I thought I would include the entire short piece here since Ms. Lambs trenchant comments are so timely.

    “The Lesson We All Learned in Third Grade”

    We are going to take a quick, but necessary, detour.

    MultiTouchFiction.com does not offer advice on the craft of writing. All the great writers throughout history, the ones who inspire your own efforts, have offered their insights. They all told you the same things. They told you that it took years to develop their craft and that they never stopped learning. Many have written, often in harrowing detail, how their own path to great writing first had to travel through an intimidating landscape: an openness where the writer stands naked and in submission before a scalpel that dissects, dismembers and examines – without mercy or benefit of anesthesia – the outpouring of the heart and soul. They told you this requires great courage and a commitment to your craft that few writers are ready – or willing – to make. But they said something else: they started out just like you. They knew there is greatness in each one of us and to depend on that truth with every sentence you hone, every page you agonize over.

    However, these writers never faced the profoundly disturbing modern development every artist working today must conquer. The Internet offers wonderful opportunities for learning and connection and the advancement of knowledge for the entire human race. But the Internet has a dark side: mankind’s unleashed id spreading misunderstandings and falsehoods and calumny around the world in a millisecond – often stated in the vilest of language – and calling it opinion. When this trickles up we see the results: where anyone with a website can make a claim to knowledge and authority without possessing either. Where anyone can claim to be a qualified Art or Literary Critic without practicing the standards of excellence established over 400 years of scholarship whose origins can be traced as far back as Aristotle’s Poetics. Cultural anthropologists throughout academia are studying this phenomenon and the corrosive effect it is having on society, as well as what it portends for the future of our civilization.

    A pervasive darkness threatens. We must be on our guard. Art is an individual expression. The cynic despises your passion and your talent because he has no passion or talent of his own.

    We all learned an important lesson in third grade. It wasn’t from a book or what the teacher said. It was a lesson we learned intuitively. As we grew older most of us simply forgot: the kid on the other side of the room calling you stupid for no good reason is simply not worth talking to. We knew intuitively it was nonsense. But as we grew older and we learned to value critical thinking in our walk through life, we tried to use reason and dialogue (and our innate good graces) to ask why someone was thoughtlessly trashing our work. We said “let’s talk about it” and we found that no matter how generous or solicitous we were, it was a total waste of time.

    MultiTouch Fiction is an entirely new Art form. At this point in time no one is qualified to render an informed opinion on this Art. Apple itself is only recently aware that iBooks Author, originally created for textbooks and non-fiction, has ushered in a revolutionary genre of Literature. No one is an expert on how iBooks Author can be used to create MultiTouch Fiction. No one can say you need to use a certain feature in a certain way. These are artistic choices. There are no hard and fast rules. Hard and fast rules are the very opposite of creativity. iBooks Author is a sophisticated, feature-rich, multimedia-authoring platform that is so – how shall we put this? – ridiculously easy to use, that your creativity has free reign to explore an entirely new landscape in one of the most exciting developments in Literature.

    The writer is an artist. Your goal is to create what Poe called, in another context, the “unity of effect” fundamental to all Art that elicits in the observer that experience when, in a single moment of truth, the beauty of Art presents itself. It could be the few lines of a sonnet or the tale of a Jazz Age bootlegger. It’s in that Stephen King story, too: for a week, you kept all the lights on at night when you discovered your neighbors’ dogs were meeting in secret to plot their revenge. Beauty is found in the most unlikeliest of places. Anyone who tells you otherwise, just remember it’s the kid in third grade all over again; and we’ve just been through all that.

    You have work to do.

    —-

    https://multitouchfiction.com/2014/06/05/the-lesson-we-all-learned-in-third-grade/

  54. #73 by Jan S. Gephardt on May 17, 2016 - 11:34 am

    I had a “taste of troll” this winter. Most disconcerting! I was misquoted, along with some friends who’d been involved in a panel discussion at a science fiction convention. As a group, we decided to “starve the troll” by posting one official comment, and then maintaining a blanket of silence on the matter.

    It was really hard to do. The impulse is to leap to the defense of ourselves or our friends. I had more than one long email in my “drafts” folder for a while, that I (thank God) had the sense not to send, or got talked out of sending by cooler heads.

    One thing about the Internet is that it has the attention span of a gnat, and if there’s no oxygen to fan the flame-war (one side shouting pathetically into the vacuum gets boring pretty fast), the flame war eventually moves elsewhere. The hard thing is to sit it out, and realize that no matter how well-reasoned your defense, the very fact that you RESPONDED adds fuel to the irrational frenzy.

    Presumably, several months later, we’ve weathered last winter’s storm. The troll has moved on to easier targets, and we’ve continued acting like the normal, peaceable folk we are. My heart goes out to anyone else in a similar predicament.

  55. #74 by Talena Winters on May 19, 2016 - 4:24 pm

    Such a great post, Kristen. Preach it!🙂

  56. #75 by teleprechaun on June 7, 2016 - 1:00 am

    Thanks for being a voice of reason. Up until now, I’ve rarely posted online because I don’t want any part of the mob negativity. The internet is a tricky ocean. I always imagined dipping my toes in, and–Phlunk! how about that undertow!
    One thing this discussion is making clear, though, is that these mobs and trolls are almost like censorship mobs. They make examples of people who say things they don’t like, as a warning to others who consider “stepping out of line.” They’re acting like gatekeepers, silencing critical discussion before it starts. Not surprising that many of the worst trolls have proved to be employed by shady aspects of government. Only takes a few matches to teach a forest to burn.
    In that sense, they’ve created a model for opposition, and ensured that it is irrational and unruly, only fit for destruction. Seems apt, given that these writers had every reason to be incensed by what that model had said. By reciprocating his madness they nullified their righteousness.

    With a meaningful response, they might have accomplished something. And come out looking all the better for it. A real shame.

    Here’s to thoughtful alternatives!

  57. #76 by Tracy on July 15, 2016 - 12:02 am

    People say stupid crap online they’d never say in real life. The world would be a much happier place if everyone just stepped away from the outrage button.

  1. The Portugal Years
  2. Cyber Bullies vs. Cyber Lynch Mobs—Does Anyone Win? — Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Marianne's Musings
  3. Cyber Bullies vs. Cyber Lynch Mobs—Does Anyone Win? — Kristen Lamb’s Blog | http://www.orroli-longevo.com
  4. Humanity has been gifted with this lovely new invention… | Dieogo's Blog

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