On the outskirts of Stressville going down Rant Lane


The last week or two, I've been watching a number of dramas unfold on the internet, dramas like soap opera from hell drama. It's entertaining but also makes me feel a little sick. It's also kind of fascinating. I'm curious about human nature and the personalities of people who like to stir up shit soup, and the people who then jump into them seemingly without any apparent knowledge of what's really going on. I'm curious about why some people don't see the bigger picture and can only focus on the miniscule issue that appears in front of them. And I'm curious about the level of judgement and hypocrisy that exists on the internet and how people who are so quick to lash out at others for doing certain things are completely blind to the fact that they're doing the same effing douchebag thing. 

It spirals and multiplies, from the initial "wrongdoing" and the first response to that, to someone attacking the responder which is repeated by someone else and someone else until it's a whole bunch of people behaving like “That unprofessional flaming shit-bird who did that really unprofessional shitbird thing and now it’s a stain on his career like a permanent skidmark that bled through his tighty-whities and onto his khaki shorts.” (as Chuck Wendig said so eloquently). As a social phenomenon it's kind of fascinating. Is it the anonymity of the internet that leads people to do this? Is it the fast pace of the information that flows online that makes people react so quickly to information that's not even true, without even checking the facts? Does it make people feel better about themselves to criticize others, perhaps because of some deep-rooted insecurity or lack of self-esteem?

I've seen things tweeted that were then completely twisted into something else, retweeted with outrage, which someone else sees and retweets with more outrage until a whole bunch of people are all angry shitbirds about something that never really happened.

I've seen people stir up conflict between two groups of people by tweeting things that are their own perception of something and not the reality, which other people then see and assume is reality and then respond with more outrage and indignation and turn it into an us vs them thing that never really existed except in one person's own mind. Or, again thanks to Chuck Wendig, they are “Fighting In The Trenches Of The Any Imaginary War” (sic).

I've seen authors tweeting awful things about other authors. An author who is wildly successful is mocked and scathingly criticized. Someone who promos too much is (in one author's opinion) "douchy". Could she be referring to me? I don't know. I don't think I promo too much, but I do retweet a compliment about my book or a good review. Am I douchy for doing that? I guess a lot of us might be. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Stories about authors choosing to self-publish instead of going with the traditional publisher's deal, stories about authors "outing" a pirate who stole their book, stories about librarians concerned about how ARCs are given out at conferences — are tweeted about with vitriol, hatred and anger. Tweets are twisted to mean something else. People often don't name names. Is that better or worse? You can hide behind the fact that the person you're tweeting about may never see what you said. Or if they do, they'll wonder if you're talking about them or someone else. But often it's not hard to follow a trail and find out who it's about. Would someone say those things to someone's "face" i.e. an @ message saying those same things? Why would you tweet them "anonymously" then? Does it make people feel better about themselves, bigger and more important, to judge other people and call them names?

Oh wait, I actually have seen people saying those things to someone's face, with @ messages on Twitter — and it looked like they were a shark going on the attack. But you know what? You wouldn't see that unless you happened to follow both those people.

And the "outing" of personal information about people - saw it happen twice in the last week, and once by someone who vociferously denounced someone else for doing that same thing.

Another us vs. them was started (okay, actually re-started as this has happened before) between reviewers and authors with the "a negative review is not bullying" meme that sprang up. A group of people started a blog about "bullying" on Goodreads. The group states they aren't even authors (I have no idea who they really are). They aren't  talking about negative reviews. They're talking about specific behaviours on a particular website (whether it's bullying or not is questionable, but I'm not going down that path here). But someone sees a tweet that says "a negative review is not bullying" and says "Hell yeah! That's true!" (because it is true, right?) and they retweet it, and that happens over and over until so many people have seen it and it gets all twisted and spun into "authors hate reviewers" and "authors are too sensitive and can't take criticism" and lots of angry, vicious tweets. Then people start reviving old stories about authors responding to negative reviews. One author even used the Twitter hashtag #morebadauthors to tweet about another author who'd responded to a negative review — six months ago! WTF? What purpose does that serve, dragging up old crap like that? It just propagates the whole conflict. Why? Do we really need to all hate each other? Do people just like the attention they get for doing this?

And then when someone reasonable steps in to ask why or to present a different viewpoint, I've seen people (including an author!) respond with rudeness and defensiveness and the comment "feel free to unfollow". Um. Nice.

People do bad things. People make mistakes. I live in sick fear of making some kind of mistake that someone will turn into a huge internet "scandal" that grows and grows until I'm so demoralized and humiliated I have to disappear. Nobody's perfect. I'm not a religious person, but that biblical passage "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" comes to mind. If you've never done anything wrong or made a mistake in your life (Really? Really?) feel free to attack and deride and denounce and ridicule someone online. But just know this — attacking and deriding and denouncing and ridiculing someone, to their face or even if you don't name them, makes you look kinda like a douchy douchebag unprofessional shitbird.