When online is out of line: The Elephant in the Drawing Room

There’s been something I’ve been wanting to write about on this blog for a long time but I kept putting it off because at the same time I don’t want to write about it. I’m afraid to write about it.  I’m afraid that writing about it will cause me to lose friends and gain enemies. I’m afraid it will cause me to be judged, criticized and targeted in a cruel manner. I’m afraid it will hurt me and hurt others.

I’ve talked to friends about wanting to write about it on my blog. Some think it’s a good idea, some think it’s a bad idea, some aren’t so sure. I was unsure about it myself so I decided to focus on other topics, all the while having it in my mind that I would write about the topic I was afraid to write about ‘eventually’. The other day on Instagram I saw a post that said Writing Prompt of the Week: Write about the thing you’re most scared to write about. Underneath it said “Facing our fear brings out visceral energy. The work that scares us is often the most powerful, with important things to say. ” It was then that I decided that it was time to write about this topic I was afraid to write about, time to address the elephant in the room.

The situation is an elephant in the room because it has caused me a lot of distress and many people who read my blog are aware of it.  It was the catalyst for me starting this blog and I’ve made many vague references to it on here but I’ve never spoken about it directly or told the full story of what happened. People often tell me I’m brave for sharing my story on my blog. No story I’ve told on my blog has required more bravery on my part than the one I’m about to tell now.

A little over a year ago I was banned from an internet forum that I had been a member of for twelve years. The first thing people want to know is why I was banned. You’d think the answer to that question would be simple but I actually have a hard time explaining it. I have a hard time explaining everything that went on at that forum, especially to people who aren’t familiar with internet forums.

For years I never felt the need to explain that forum to anyone because I kept it a secret from everyone in my real life. It was my own secret world, a world of drama that I was intensely wrapped up in. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that for years I was very socially isolated and depressed. That forum became my main social outlet and it was pretty much my only source of socialization with people who weren’t related to me or paid to talk to me.

People often come together and socialize as a result of shared interests.  Some people are interested in sports, some are interested in art and some are interested in stamp collecting. Then there are those who have more unusual interests, such as baby names. Yes, baby names are a great interest of mine and no, I don’t plan on ever having a baby.  One might think that being interested in baby names when you’re not having a baby is so bizarre that it would be impossible to find a group based on such an interest so imagine my delight when I found an internet forum devoted to just that. Furthermore that forum had a special focus on snarking on bad baby names such as Apple, Sir and Nevaeh, which is the special focus of my own interest in baby names. Many other topics besides baby names were discussed at this forum though. These topics included politics, news stories, entertainment, food, parenting and personal issues.

For the first few years that I was a member of that board I didn’t have much of a presence there. I didn’t have any friends there and I didn’t have any enemies either.  The last few years I was there I had a huge presence.  I made a few friends and many enemies.

I didn’t post much for the first few years I was there because I was engaged in real world activities such as school, volunteering and hanging out with friends. With the onset of mental breakdowns followed by intense depression, anxiety and shame, those real world activities decreased and my posting on the board increased. Then I was noticed and targeted.

The main complaints about me were that I posted too much and that I posted the wrong things in the wrong way. When, a few months after I was banned, I finally started talking to my therapist, Kate, about what I went through on that board she asked me why I didn’t just post less and avoid posting things I knew would be controversial.

The truth was I often wasn’t sure what was going to be controversial and things I never would have thought would be controversial ended up causing a shit storm of epic proportions. Despite what some members of the board suggested, I don’t think this was because I was socially inept, stupid or playing dumb. The truth is that while there are certain topics that will inevitably result in flame wars (abortion and circumcision for example) sometimes you will be blindsided by the seemingly innocuous topics or statements that rile people up on the internet. One of the most heated arguments I ever saw on that board occurred in a thread about napkins.

I wasn’t personally involved in that napkin feud but I unwittingly caused many other feuds. Once someone posted a fact that appeared to be incorrect and I said “What’s your source for that?” without thinking twice about it. I was told that my question was shockingly rude and snarky.  I replied that it wasn’t meant to be snarky, it was just meant to be a direct question. A woman named Marcia (pay attention to Marcia because she’ll play an important role in this story later) said that she didn’t believe it was an innocent question, she knew I was deliberately being rude. She wouldn’t tolerate such behavior from a 10-year-old child and there was no reason anyone should tolerate such behavior from me.

When people would complain about aspects of my posting style, I would do my best to alter my posting and fix the things that were bothering them but then they’d just find something new to complain about.  Often they’d complain about me doing the very thing I’d been told to do.

When I posted about news stories people would complain that I was just summarizing the news story and not opening a discussion about it. I was told to offer talking points for the issues I presented.  When I opened the topics with discussion questions people complained that the questions were too formulaic and made them feel like they were answering essay questions for English class. People would complain that I posted about things in threads that weren’t closely related enough to the original topic of the thread or that I posted after too long a time had passed since the last post in the thread. They told me to post separate threads instead. When I did that they complained that I was posting too many threads. When I would post about light, silly topics people would complain that the topics weren’t important enough to discuss. When I would post about serious topics people would complain that they were too upsetting, disturbing or controversial  to discuss.

When I posted about a certain issue regarding a former U.S. president without giving my opinion on the matter, I was accused of depending on the board to form my opinions for me. The disagreement that ensued resulted in me being suspended from the board. When I expressed an opinion regarding another former president that went against the majority opinion of the board I was accused of holding a contrary opinion just for the sake of arguing. The disagreement that ensued resulted in me being banned from the board.

As for why I didn’t just post less when people complained that I was posting too much, I told Kate that it was because I enjoyed posting and discussing the things I did on that board and other people enjoyed it too.

“Were there people who responded positively to your posting?” Kate asked.  Yes, a lot of people responded positively to it.  There were people who told me they really appreciated all the interesting conversations I started and the perspectives I gave. For years that forum had been experiencing  a decline in membership, activity and participation, as have internet forums in general ( I imagine that the popularity of social  media has something to do with it.)  People would say that I contributed greatly to the board, that I kept it going, that I brought life to it, that it would be dead without me. There were also people who complained that I was destroying the board, that I was responsible for the decline in activity and membership, that the board would be a better place without me.

When debating whether or not to post certain things on this blog I tend to give higher priority to the people who will appreciate it vs. the people who will not appreciate it and greater consideration to the ways in which it will help me vs. the way in which it will harm me. After all, the people who don’t like what I write don’t have to read it.

I had a similar philosophy regarding that forum.  It had an ignore button that you could use to prevent yourself from seeing the posts of certain members. Unlike on Facebook, the block feature did not work both ways and you could unblock specific posts in order to read them at any time. The complainers claimed that they couldn’t put me on ignore because I posted so much that putting me on ignore would make the entire board disappear and the conversation wouldn’t flow properly.  Plus they’d still have to suffer the trauma of reading what I wrote in quotes from other people and unblocking my posts to read them would defeat the point of ignoring me. They also complained that I was “monopolizing”the board which didn’t make much sense to me since it wasn’t like there was a limit to the total number of posts that could be made on that board and the more posts I made, the less posts others were able to make.

As I said before, at the time I was leading a very lonely and isolated life. I was also leading a life that lacked purpose and direction. In real life I I was often shamed for doing nothing with my life, for accomplishing nothing, for contributing nothing to the world. When I would post on that board and people would respond positively to what I posted, when I’d get a long, interesting conversation going, not only was that my way of socializing but it felt like a way of accomplishing something and making a small contribution to the world.

When people responded negatively to what I posted and attacked me for it, that was always very hurtful to me but in a way it also helped me because whenever a bunch of people attacked me, a bunch of people also defended me and reached out to me privately. They would tell me they were sorry I was being treated so badly, they would type words of support and encouragement. Sometimes from there conversations and relationships would develop. It was through making enemies on that board that I made friends on that board.

One of the people who reached out to me was a young woman named Bernadette. She empathized with me because she was also a board target who was often attacked by other members. For a while I believed the nasty things other members said about her and sometimes I even participated in attacks on her. Yet once I started talking to her I realized that the other board members were wrong about her and that I had unfairly allowed their opinion of her to influence my own opinion of her. I realized that she’s actually a really nice, smart, honest, funny person. Although I’ve never met her in real life, today I consider her to be one of my best friends.

I probably would have been more open to changing the way I posted if people had addressed their issues with me privately and in a civil manner but they chose to publicly humiliate me in a cruel and nasty way. That did not make me want to change in order to please those people, especially once I got the impression that no matter what I did, there was no pleasing them. I wasn’t too inclined to be considerate of the feelings of people who had no respect for my feelings.  I just felt angry at those people. I suppose those people were angry at me too but I don’t feel all that bad about the distress I caused them by posting more than they wanted me to and in the incorrect format. Somehow I don’t think my posting frequency or style was anywhere near as emotionally distressing or hurtful to them as the things they said to and about me were to me.

Over the years I was told that I was annoying, irritating, rude, obnoxious, immature, childish, selfish, bitchy, creepy, inconsiderate, discourteous, arrogant, condescending, divisive, provocative, deliberately obtuse, off putting, hostile, weird, abnormal, unhealthy, obsessive, attention seeking, etc, etc, I was called a troll, an imbecile, a pedophile, an unrepentant antagonist, a sad sack and a spoiled, ungrateful brat. I was referred to as “Miss I have autism” “A danger to the community” and “Just bird noises in the bathroom.” I was told to get a life and a job and that I needed serious help at best. It was suggested that I had experienced a major decline in my mental abilities, that I had plagiarized the things I posted on the board and that I should blow my brains out. I was accused of using autism and depression as excuses for bad behavior. I was accused of lying about various things such as my identity, my sex, my life experiences, my family relationships and my dog’s death. All of that took a major toll on my self esteem and my self esteem was crap to begin with.

When I or anyone else complained about the way I was treated we were told I deserved to be treated that way because I was so annoying. I won’t claim that I was never annoying on that board because sometimes I was and I won’t claim that I never behaved badly on that board because sometimes I did. However, I will say that I did not deserve to be treated in the manner that I was. I also know that I was not targeted just because I was annoying. There are a lot of annoying people on that board who are not targeted. I became an easy target because I was so vulnerable.

Even though I don’t think I deserved to be treated in the manner that I was, I blame myself for it. I had the power to walk away from that board at any time and yet I chose to remain there for years until I was forced out.

To be continued….

 

Bad Baby Names and Beyond

 

Yesterday’s blog post was devoted to my love of reading. Today’s blog post will be devoted to another love of mine-baby names! Just like I go over lists of books I’ve read in my head, I also go over lists of celebrity baby names in my head. A kind blogger referred to me as a sad sack who lives in her mama’s basement with an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrity baby names. She said that if that was the only thing she could think to do with her brain she would blow it out. She went on to refer to me as a pedophile who posted 50 times a day. She said the forum I posted on was stupid for keeping me around because if they did their research they’d discover that I was a pedophile.

First of all, I may be a sad sack but if you read my first blog you’ll know that I do not live in the basement. I am fortunate enough to have my own room on the top floor. I guess that makes me a spoiled, ungrateful brat, as another person who commented referred to me as. Second of all, I’ll admit that compiling celebrity baby names is not the best use of one’s brain but if there’s ever a celebrity baby names category on Jeopardy I will kill that category. Seriously, give me the name of any celebrity and I can give you the first and middle names of all their children. Third of all I may have posted 50 times a day but I am not a pedophile. That forum did eventually get rid of me and they did some research on me but they found nothing that suggested I was a pedophile.

Let’s move away from the topic of pedophilia now and on to the actual topic of this post, baby names. Since being banned from that forum, I’ve missed snarking on bad baby names there but now I can snark on baby names on this blog.

The first target of my snark is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.  Jamie Oliver, you are an asshole, not just because of the names you give to your children but because of the way you go about revealing those names. Your last sprog was born two weeks ago but we didn’t find out his name until yesterday. You didn’t reveal his name by just announcing what it was but by dropping coy hints about it. Yesterday your wife posted a sign from your son’s nursery that said Dream Big River. The sign’s appalling lack of punctuation initially led people to believe that the baby might actually be named Dream Big River but the posting of the rocket emoji, followed by a blue heart emoji led people to believe his name is in fact River Rocket Blue. We don’t know for sure what his name is because you’re being so vague about it but I’m just going to assume it’s River Rocket Blue because I can’t handle wondering what his name is for any longer.

There are people saying that River is a bad, bad name but I’m going to defend you on that one, Jamie. I saw a comment along the lines of “If it’s okay to name your kid River why not Stream or Tributary? ” I’d assume it’s for the same reason it’s fine to name your kid Rose, Violet or Lily but naming your kid Rhododendron, Hibiscus or Forget Me Not would be a bad idea. I would not name a kid Stream or Tributary but I would consider River, Lake or Ocean. I just like the sounds of those names, not that liking the sound of a word is a good enough reason to use it as a name. I would never recommend naming your kid Chlamydia no matter how pretty it sounds but River has positive associations or at least associations that are not overwhelmingly negative.

I think it’s better to name your kid after a body of water than after a creature that dwells in a body of water. I’m looking at you, Zooey Deschanel.  I do like otters but I don’t think Otter sounds or looks very nice as a name. It is a middle name but combined with the first name Elsie it sounds like a feeble attempt to speak Spanish. Zooey Deschanel’s kid’s name does not irritate me as much as her own name does though. Zooey is truly an abomination and pronouncing it like Zoe makes no sense phonetically.

On to the latest Oliver sprog’s middle names-Rocket and Blue. Many people will say that Rocket and Blue are very stupid names. I do think Rocket is a stupid name and I think Blue would be stupid as a first name but I don’t mind it as a middle name. The problem here, Jamie, is that you chose a name that’s bad but not quite bad enough. On the surface River Rocket Blue seems like a very daring and unusual name but anyone who keeps track of celebrity baby names will know that River Rocket Blue is downright boring for a celebrity baby. I can think of so many celebrity babies that have River, Rocket or Blue as a first or middle name.

I don’t think River Rocket Blue quite fits in with the sibling names of Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow or Buddy Bear Maurice either. Yes, I would expect River Rocket Blue to put flowers in his hair, do drugs, wear tie dye shirts and feel connected with spirit animals but unlike his siblings I wouldn’t expect him to literally be a flower, a drug, a tie dye shirt or a stuffed animal.

Moving on to another celebrity, rapper DMX recently welcomed his 15th child, a son named Exodus. Unfortunately I can only find the names of four of his other children-Shawn, Xavier, Tocoma and Praise Mary Ella. I feel a bit silly criticizing his baby names when the real issue is that he has 15 children and is a deadbeat dad but I’m going to criticize his baby names anyway.

I’m sure every woman who has a full term pregnancy is happy when their child makes an exodus from their womb but that’s not a reason to name the kid Exodus. Xavier is actually a nice name so good job there. I’m willing to excuse Shawn, despite the incorrect spelling. I will not however excuse Tocoma. If you’re going to name your kid after a random city/model of car, you need to at least spell it right. It’s fine to praise your daughter, Mary Ella. It is not fine to name your daughter Praise Mary Ella.

A naming blog I follow announced the birth of Saffy Isabel Lynda, sister to Tillie and Texas. It was explained that Isabel was chosen so she could share a name with her sister, who also has the middle name of Isabel and Lynda is after a family member who passed away but I’m left wondering where the hell Saffy comes from. I suppose it could be a nickname for Saffron or Sapphire. Saffron and Sapphire are pretty questionable as names but I can see the appeal of them. I do not see the appeal of Saffy.

The blog I saw it on described Saffy as being pretty and sweet. This blogger finds Saffy to be the opposite of pretty. I guess I could see why it would be considered sweet though because it reminds me of taffy and taffy is sweet. However, it also reminds me of sassy and if you’re sassy you’re probably not sweet.

Things could have turned out worse for little Saffy though. One of the boy names her parents were considering was Rowdy. Someone suggested Saffy Honeysuckle Lynda. That’s a sex worker name if ever there was one.

As for Saffy’s siblings, I don’t like Tillie because it’s a cutesy nickname being used as a full name but cutesy nicknames being used as full names are just a fact of life these days. As for their brother’s name, their parents have 50 U.S. states to choose from and Texas is the name they settle on? This is an Australian blog so I’m not sure if these parents have ever been to Texas. To be fair I’ve never been to Texas either but I saw what Texas did to my brother. My brother used to be a normal person or at least as normal as anyone in my family gets. Then he moved to Texas and became a gun loving, cowboy hat wearing Trump supporter.

*I feel like I need to add a a disclaimer in case little Saffy’s parents google her name and are horribly offended by what I said. I am not making fun of your baby, I am making fun of your baby’s name. I congratulate you on the birth of your baby and I wish you and your family all the best. I have not named any babies myself but some of my favorite names are Mariah, Rhiannon and Silas. Feel free to make fun of those names. I won’t take it personally. I do know what it’s like to be hurt by comments made about you online. I was very hurt by the comments I mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry.