I have to admit, this was a blog post I never wanted to write. And please go into this noting I do not want sympathy or to shine my own halo, but to educate and maybe make a few people pause for thought at a controversial issue.
Most of us have been there – we’ve seen another blogger and although the golden rule is to support each other, they’ve done something that’s annoyed us. Maybe you’ve gone one step further and called them out? I have. It’s almost seen like a public service and even when the other blogger reacted angrily to me, a group of supportive blogger friends told me I’d done the right thing. There’s more to this story, of course, but a few months after the incident I can safely say I was wrong, very wrong, to let my anger get the best of me.
However, more recently I was on the receiving end of another angry blogger, and as I read her post about Instagram, which I very much agreed with, and prepared myself to write a nice comment, I noticed a familiar situation being outlined, and realised it was written about something stupid I had done months ago. I’m not going into any further details (you can check out my Instagram text post for that), and I do not, under any circumstances, want this discussed any further than it has already been. Because the details of what happened are no longer relevant, but the effect it had on me is and is what I want to confront here.
When I was called out, my anxiety went into overdrive. I suffered from severe insomnia, panic attacks, and random tearful outbursts. I didn’t eat for days. I didn’t want to leave the house. I was instructed by everyone not to make a big deal of it. I’ve made all the deal I can be bothered to and this post is not meant to add to that, rather to focus on how such a careless notion can affect another person. I am a very strong person and have been riding the anxiety dragon since I was 11 years old. I knew no matter how awful the feeling was, it would pass. But that doesn’t excuse the pit I was thrown into, feeling like public enemy number one because no one would listen to me. I was a victim of a passive aggressive, emotionally abusive form of bullying, no matter what spin you want to put on it. And whilst I may have been able to get over it pretty quickly, that can’t be applied to everyone that might go through this sensation.
We are always told that cyberbullying is unacceptable. When we hear a tale of it, we all condemn it heartily. How in God’s name could anyone do such a thing? But despite that, we are all probably guilty of it from time to time. It is much more gratifying to post something on social media that will get likes and comments of sympathy than to confront a problem head on. And that is when cyberbullying, although accidental, can come into play.
Subtweeting, or passive aggressive social media posting, is something that quite frankly needs to stop. I’m actually amazed that when I looked into passive aggression, it seemed to be more widely celebrated than condemned – you can find hundreds of web-pages citing hilarious examples of passive aggression before you’ll find one site that speaks about how detrimental it is. But I was previously emotionally abused to the point of becoming suicidal and passive aggression was my abuser’s favourite weapon. It left me permanently feeling like I was treading on eggshells, in a near constant state of panic, and responsible for every negative reaction she had towards me. Of course, this was a real-life situation, but online it can be all the more damaging because you cannot directly see the effect you have on your target. No doubt you hope they’ll read it, and maybe feel ashamed. Or maybe you think they won’t read it and you’ll only get the positive results of people agreeing with you. Those “Urgh, some people xyz…” tweets may feel good to write – after all, there’s no firm proof that you’re referring to anyone at all here – but it still has a fair chance of reaching it’s target. Whether they feel ashamed, or clap back, you send the tweet with negative intentions, and likely end up dealing a devastating blow.
But it’s not bullying, right? Everybody does it?
At the end of the day, you said these negative things with an end goal of simply being mean. The gratification you get of someone agreeing with you may make you feel like what you said simply needed to be said. But it didn’t. And you may never know the full effect it had on the target. Whether you honestly don’t think you did anything wrong, felt the target deserved the call out or didn’t see any reaction so assumed things were fine, what you did was mean. Own up to it. Eventually, it will come back around when you call out a person who won’t take it lying down, and maybe a group of people will hold it against you for a very long time.
The effects of cyber bullying can be far reached, and cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, fear responses and in extreme cases can even push a victim to suicide. It might seem like less because you aren’t directly telling the person mean things or pushing them in your eyes. But these actions are so damaging. And it’s something I’ve realised I see actually pretty often in the blogging community, blanketed under some disguise of being helpful. Is it finally time to face up to these things? How far do we need to go before someone acknowledges a problem?
I see the words “Community not Competition” shared a lot, and when one blogger does something perceived to be too competitive, they are often called out. In the wake of the Sarah Ashcroft Cosmo article I championed that belief when I wrote this post in response. Was I wrong to write it? Maybe. I wasn’t the only one to write such a post. Sarah Ashcroft may have made a mistake by saying those things, and she didn’t own up to the mistake and instead let a journalist known for some anti-blogger rhetoric write a clap-back piece. But I can’t deny now the response to her words was probably hurtful, and the clap-back author was simply trying to help, albeit poorly. What I’m really trying to say is all bloggers are human beings, and we all make mistakes. A competitive edge in most humans can’t be helped. But when we all cry out in outrage when one blogger screws up, and get others on our bandwagon to help, it causes more damage than good. How can we really emphasize community when we bring down another of our own kind so quickly without giving them a chance to see that mistake? I ended up slapped in the face with mine, crying on the bathroom floor. I clapped back, hard. And with no response, I assume now, with my experiences, some people were left hurt. A whole situation that could’ve been avoided if the subject of my mistake had just contacted me privately and said “Hey. What you said there really annoyed me. It hurt my feelings. Why did you do that?”.
I would’ve responded in that case with a whole-hearted apology, one I still sincerely believe in, but has been tarnished because of the other person’s response. As soon as you meet unkindness with an equal response, it escalates the situation. That person, who may have hurt you, is no longer any worse than you or the people you encourage to share in the negativity. Two wrongs, even under the most satisfying circumstances, do not make a right. We cannot preach community if this is the response we have to someone we perceive as wrong. You cannot really be asking for support when you publicly shame another in the same boat as you for maybe not knowing what they did was wrong.
Thankfully, despite nearly giving up and shutting down my blog, I’ve rallied and realised this moment will not define me. But it has certainly made me put up walls and push me further from a community I thought I had a place in. For the most part only a small group of bloggers made me feel so horrible and I honestly believe it was no attempt to be so malicious, just a frustration that no one considered the full effect of. I’m in a forgiving mood again, although I can’t say I’m wanting to get too involved in that particular niche of bloggers. I still wish them the best, and hope that if they stumble across this blog post, it makes them think a little.
Your words can reach further than you think. If you wouldn’t want it broadcast against you for all the blogosphere to see, maybe don’t post it. You never know what’s going to come and bite you in the backside later.