Sometimes I get people who wonder why I side with the so-called bully reviewers as an author. Am I trying to damage other authors' careers? Please. Do I enjoy the mob mentality? No. Am I a mean person? I don't think so, but at the end of the day that's really up to you.
This is a personal blog entry, and for some of you it might hit a little too close to home. There are anxiety and bullying triggers in this post, so please, consider yourself warned.
When I was in high school I had really bad social anxiety. Giving oral reports would cause me to have nightmares and stomachaches in the days before. I would shake so badly my knees would tremble and you could hear my notes rattling in my hand. Making friends was really difficult for me. I felt like everything I did was being noticed and criticized. I really, really, REALLY hated being forced into social interactions. Even buying something at a register made me feel faint.
During my freshman year, I had some people who were my friends betray me in the worst way possible. They decided that they had had enough of my weirdness and were going to teach me a lesson. They shoved me around and threatened to beat me up. They made fun of the way I looked, the way I dressed, the music I listened to, and even what I wore. They called me things like "dyke" and "tranny", just because I was a tomboy, and defaced all of my blogs with insults under various sockpuppet accounts. They would invade my personal space. They took my stories and shared them with other people without my permission, talking about how I had no talent and was a pathetic hack, and speculated about what these stories said about my mental state. They then turned all of my other friends against me - because my other friends were afraid of getting bullied too, and were too cowardly to stand up for me when I couldn't do so myself. It got so bad that my mom had the school put me on "watch" because she was terrified that something bad would happen to me. The school talked to the bullies, who then mocked me for being so pathetic that I had to get my parents to fight my battles for me. I was 14.
This went on for three. Fucking. Years.
I would come home, and I wanted to die. I felt so frustrated, so powerless, so angry. For the first time in my life, I understood what would drive someone to show up to school with a gun: it felt like I didn't own my own mind. It felt like I was being dissembled piece by piece, until I wasn't even a real person anymore. I felt so depersonalized. I felt like a monster.
My teachers looked the other way. Some of them even victimized me, also, as a way of establishing rapport with the other students. The principal didn't do anything, claimed that there wasn't anything the school COULD do, because this was mostly happening online. (This all happened when the internet was fairly new, and before all those Myspace-related incidents of bullying resulted in those highly publicized suicides.) I spent lunches in the library, because I felt too sick to eat. Sometimes I'd fake sick so I wouldn't have to go to school. I really, truly hated myself.
And I hated them for making me feel like I might even remotely deserve this. I hated them for making me hate myself.
It took me five years before I was able to really trust people again.
It took me five years to realize that overtures of friendships aren't traps being set by people who want to exploit and terrorize you.
It took me five years to be able to confide in other people without fear of rejection or retaliation.
Five years of my life.
When I see these authors throwing around the word “bullying,” just because of ONE NEGATIVE REVIEW (warranted or not), I get infuriated. Because that's not bullying. That's not even close. If you think that's bullying, you're damned lucky, because if a negative review is the worst case of social rejection you've ever gotten, you've probably lived a pretty good life.
When you throw the word "bully" around, you reduce its effect. Bullying is a serious problem. It ruins lives. Authors who make sock puppet accounts, or launch attacks against reviewers in some misguided attempts at justice aren't crusading against bullies—they ARE bullies. And some of those people you're victimizing? They might just be fourteen, too. They might be younger.
Five years of what should have been the best years of my life were ruined because of bullies.
Because of real, actual bullies.
How dare you do that to someone. How COULD you do that to someone? How could you stalk and harass someone over something as stupid as a book? How could you tell them they're worthless and that their words aren't worth hearing? How could you want to force them to real their true identities so you can stalk and harass them further? How could you say the things you said, knowing you have to look yourself in the mirror the next morning? How could you do that? How could you?
How could you?
WHY would you?
You're authors. You, more than anyone, should know the power of the words you use.