When Online is Out of Line: The Best Worst Thing That Possibly Could Have Happened

I was very pleasantly surprised by the general response I got from the friends from my past I reached out to. They told me how happy they were to hear from me and they bore me no grudge for my years of silence. When we talked it was as though those years of silence had never happened. We picked up where we’d left off and I felt as comfortable with them as I had years ago. One friend told me that getting in touch with me had made her day, summer and year. The feeling was mutual.

I ended up talking to some of my old friends on the phone and getting together with some of them in person. When I’d been deprived of genuine, face to face friendship for so long, having it again produced feelings of giddiness and euphoria akin to first love. I began to wonder why I had wasted so much time on that forum with people who did not like me, did not appreciate me and did not have my best interests at heart when there were people out there who loved me, appreciated me and wanted nothing but the best for me.

I realized that the way I was viewed by that forum in general is not the way I’m viewed by people in general or the world in general. Many people view me as funny, witty, intelligent and empathetic.

I realized that as powerless as I had felt on that forum, I now had a choice in whether or not I continued to let the people there have power over me. They could not make me feel inferior without my consent and it was time for me to revoke the consent I’d given them. I could refuse to wear that scarlet B they pinned on me.

I knew I was continuing to be mocked, snarked on and torn apart en masse but so what if those people didn’t like me? I don’t like them either. So what if they think I have major character flaws and behaved inappropriately? They have some major character flaws themselves and engaged in some wildly inappropriate behavior themselves.

It was hard for me to shake the notion that since I’d been banned from the forum and those people hadn’t, they were right and I was wrong but I just need to look to the larger world to know that authority figures don’t always make the right decision and justice is not always served.

I can’t even say the moderators made the wrong decision in banning me though. There’s a lot I could say to the moderators about that but this is what I’d like to say to them most of all: Thank You.

Thank you for getting me away from those toxic people and that toxic environment. Thank you for giving me the impetus to seek out better people and better environments. I know a lot of people claimed that forum would be better off without me. I’m not sure if that’s true but I do know I’m so much better off without that forum.

 

When Online is Out of Line: You Should Get a Blog

While I didn’t end up creating a new account on the forum I was banned from when I went to Rhode Island, I did end up creating a different kind of new internet account while I was there. Multiple people on that forum had suggested I get a blog but I hadn’t paid much attention to their suggestions since they weren’t suggesting I get a blog because they thought I was a good writer with interesting things to say. They were suggesting it because they felt the stuff I was posting on the forum was annoying drivel and they wanted me to post it on a blog rather than bother them with it.

If what those people were saying was true they were only reading what I posted on the internet because they had to in order for the rest of the forum to make sense. No one would have to read my blog in order to follow along with the rest of an internet community and since I only produced shallow nonsense no one would be interested in reading what I wrote for its own sake.

And yet I knew that what those people on the forum were saying was not true. I knew that if I created a blog those people would track it down and read it. I also knew that I was a good writer.

While I knew that going back to the forum would be a bad idea, I still felt the need to make my thoughts about what had happened there known to both my cyber enemies  and cyber friends. Blogging seemed like the perfect way to accomplish that. I wouldn’t just be writing about it for their benefit though. I would be writing about it for my own benefit and the benefit of whoever else might read it. Maybe other people who had been cyberbullied would realize they were not alone.

I also had plenty of other things I could write about on a blog that were unrelated to the forum. While I did hope to eventually get readers who liked me and my blog, even if my only audience was hate watchers from the board, it would be good to give them an intimate glimpse of myself and my struggles. I did not expect any of my cyber enemies to ever feel bad about anything they’d said or done to me but perhaps they would be forced to acknowledge that with their words and with their actions they had not hurt a troll and they had not hurt a faker. They had hurt a real person with a real life and real feelings.

I Googled blog sites and came across WordPress. And thus Crazy-NOS was born.

My About section makes sense in its own right but it’s filled with references to things that were said to me on the forum. It was my way of starting to work through my hurt feelings and take back my power. My tagline “This is a Kiracracy” was in reference to the person who had told me “This is not a Kiracracy” in regards to the forum. I wasn’t in control of the forum but I would control my blog.

So I started writing on my blog. I wrote about various subjects and I made some references to what I had gone through with that forum without going in to great detail.

Sure enough it wasn’t long before my referral links showed that people from the forum were reading and discussing my blog.  “I’m glad they’re enjoying it” I thought to myself.

When Online is Out of Line: Your Time Here on This Board is Done

Under the line in the message informing me I had been banned was a line that said When ban will expire: Never. Under that line was a line that said reason for banning: E-mail sent to Kira*****@****.com.

A swift punch to the gut.

I opened my email. It read:

Hi Kira,

I think the posts in that George Bush thread were a long time coming. I think your time here on this board is done. At this point you have burned through all the good will people may have had. Once that happens the relationship just deteriorates completely.  I feel for you because I know you struggle but we don’t think this place is going to help you. We see the same patterns over and over again. It is destroying this community. It is time for you to move on. We will be closing your account. We wish you all the best in your life.

-NinjaMod6

At least that message from the moderator was more empathetic than the one I got when I was suspended.

“I’ve been banned” I said to Karen.

“Wow, really? The moderators haven’t said a thing on the board.”

A few minutes later the moderators announced my banning on the board. Their announcement read:

“The other moderators and I have agreed to ban Kira. Ultimately she didn’t have a healthy relationship with this board and that didn’t seem to be changing. We got more reported posts about her behavior than everyone else on this board combined. We think this is for the best for everyone involved.”

If it was true that they got more reports about my behavior than everyone else on the board combined and not just an exaggeration for effect it could have been because my behavior was exceptionally heinous but it also could have been because a bunch of petty and immature tattletales decided to complain to the mderators about my every move in an effort to get me banned.

“What are people saying now?” I asked Karen.

“They’re saying how surprised they are. Most people thought you would get a warning or a suspension.”

I wasn’t really surprised that I got banned but I was still devastated.  A place that had been an important part of my life for twelve years,a place that I had devoted so much of myself to, a place that was my main and often my only source of entertainment, socialization, conversation and friendship had just been taken away from me and I was never going to get it back.

Although I had been deeply hurt by all the ways in which people on that board had attacked,insulted and ostracized me over the years, I had never shed any actual tears over it. The night I was banned I cried myself to sleep.

When Online is Out of Line: The Beginning of the End

You never know what straw is going to break the camel’s back. The incident that ultimately led to my downfall on the board started out innocently enough but at that point nothing I did was considered innocent.

Someone posted a video of George W. Bush dancing at a funeral and many members expressed the belief that he was drunk. I said I did not believe he was drunk. We debated back and forth whether or not he was drunk for a while until a member called Vegas (all names mentioned from here on out are pseudonyms for the names or screen names of board members. Some have been mentioned previously in this saga. Others are being introduced for the first time) said “Yet another thread derailed by Kira nonsense. If you want to believe it’s impossible for a former alcoholic to start drinking again, you are free to believe that and we are free to disagree. I don’t know why you have to insist that you are right and we are wrong. Just let it go. Jeez.”

Hedwig then piped up to agree with Vegas and say “I have a feeling that if the majority had said George Bush wasn’t drunk Kira would have said he was. Gotta have whatever contrary opinion allows you to have every other post in the thread!”

Apparently I was exceptionally unlucky on that board when it came to discussing former presidents and I just couldn’t win. As you may recall, the incident that resulted in me being suspended started when I posted about an issue involving Woodrow Wilson without giving my own opinion on the matter and was subsequently accused of being unable to think for myself and relying on the board to do my thinking for me. Now when I clearly was thinking for myself and expressing an opinion that the board hadn’t formed for me I was accused of doing so solely for the sake of being contrary.

I was frustrated so I said “Oh yeah, another thread derailed by me because I’m a horrible person who’s responsible for all the problems on this forum and no one shares any blame for the way they choose to interact with me.”

Hedwig retorted with “That sounds about right. I know you’re being sarcastic but it’s pretty much true.”

Trixie jumped to my defense with “Hedwig, those comments were unnecessarily cruel. It’s understandable that someone on the autism spectrum would see neurological differences as accounting for strange behavior before they would see drunkenness. If someone made a comment like that to my daughter I would be so heartbroken for her.”

Hedwig snapped back that the fact that she would be heartbroken for her daughter did not mean anyone on the board should have to walk on eggshells around me or take my autism in to account because autism was no excuse.

Suki said “Ouch. Some of the comments made to Kira just seem unnecessarily mean. If I was told that I was always responsible for things going wrong and always ruining everyone’s fun I would just be so hurt. There are people in my life that I find annoying but I don’t treat them like this. There must be better ways to deal with someone who wants to be a part of every conversation.”

Then CatWoman said “I agree with Hedwig and I don’t care if that’s cruel . Kira, you monopolize the board, you argue for the sake of arguing, you take offense at things that aren’t offensive and you post in every thread. Why can’t you stop this behavior? I don’t understand.”

At that point I let loose and wrote a long post detailing all my thoughts, feelings and frustrations. I pointed out that I was not breaking any board rules and that there were people who appreciated my contributions to the forum. I pointed out that me posting on the board was not preventing anyone else from posting whatever they wanted and that if anyone didn’t want to read what I posted they didn’t have to. I talked about my struggles with my disability.  I said I knew there were people who were hoping to drive me off the board by going out of their way to make me feel unwelcome, by constantly poking at me until I snapped and lost it completely but I wasn’t going to let that happen. I acknowledged that my participation in the forum was not entirely healthy but that it also helped me psychologically in some ways and without it my mental health might be worse.

I guess I was hoping that by laying it all out there like that I would get people to finally understand and acknowledge where I was coming from but that’s not what happened. I was made fun of for writing an ‘epic length post’.

Lola said that my long post proved that I enjoyed being dogpiled. She told me I was addicted to the board and showed all the symptoms of an addict. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want to stop.

Firecracker told me that a hyperdefensive wall of text in response to complaints about monopolizing the board was shocking, that people kept trying to nudge me in the direction of appropriate social behavior but I wouldn’t listen and that every other forum she’d been a part would have tossed me out a long time ago.

Candy told me that I should observe the behavior of other people and conform to it-it was unusual for anyone to post as much as I did or to post when they were on vacation like I did.

Starbuck said that it wasn’t normal for a message board to be affecting one’s mental health and that I should see a psychologist (isn’t it just so helpful to tell someone who struggles with severe mental illness to see a therapist? As if that’s a brilliant suggestion they never would have thought of on their own and they haven’t already been in therapy for a long time.)

Clarissa felt that in saying I thought my mental health might worsen if I didn’t have the board in my life I was being deliberately emotionally manipulative.

Rudey Bozo said “Just because something is not against the rules doesn’t mean it’s okay to to do it. It’s called being courteous to other members. You don’t rule this board. This is not a Kiracracy. You’re just being selfish and immature.”

I have to admit that she did kind of have a point there and that the “this is not a Kiracracy”line was pretty clever but considering she was always hurling nasty insults including telling me to get a life and a job and calling another member an arrogant bitch, I don’t think she had much room to be lecturing me on courtesy to other members. Not to mention that the moderators often responded to complaints by pointing out that the offending behavior did not violate any rules.

Speaking of moderators, a moderator popped in to say that the moderators had been informed of the current situation and were monitoring it. She also told me she’d noticed the amount of posts I was making ramping up lately and was monitoring that as well.

Reagan said that no one was saying they wanted me banned but I was very annoying.

Lola replied “I want Kira banned. That way she can find whatever she’s looking for somewhere else and won’t come back and do the same thing in a few weeks or a few months. People were calling for her to be banned after the Woodrow Wilson thread and now she’s lost even more ground. The board will be fine without her. This is not the place for her.”

 

When Online is out of Line: A difficult Thanksgiving

The treatment I had received on the board and the thread devoted to picking me apart had sent me in to an emotional tailspin. I was constantly upset and agitated. I felt nervous, worried and anxious. I was overwhelmed by anger and despair. I perseverated on everything that had been said about me and everything I had said. I contemplated what I could have said differently and what I would say in the future.  I was unable to concentrate or focus on anything around me and I kept getting distracted, as my mind was elsewhere. I was frequently shaking, flapping and gritting my teeth.

My family noticed this and asked me what was the matter but I couldn’t bring myself to tell them. I found the whole thing too embarrassing and shameful. When I was brought to my psychologist and my psychiatrist for emergency sessions I couldn’t bring myself to confide in them either. My medication was adjusted.

Bernadette was upset by the way I had been treated on the board, especially by the way Marcia had treated me and she was upset that the moderators hadn’t done anything about it. She sent one of the moderators a message asking why they were okay with Marcia personally attacking me and accusing me of lying with no evidence to back it up. She received the following reply:

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of the board that you don’t see-messages between moderators and between moderators and other members. Nobody got off scot-free, it just didn’t get dragged in to the public arena. If Marcia wants to start a thread throwing a fit over the things that were said to her in private that would be her prerogative and you could find out exactly what went down. As she hasn’t done that, you’ll just have to trust that the moderators are doing their best to apply the same rules to everyone as fairly as possible.”

Gee, it sure was nice of the moderators to give Marcia the dignity of privacy. Too bad they couldn’t afford me the same dignity. You can see what a great job they were doing of applying the same standards to everyone.

That Thanksgiving I went to my sister’s house to celebrate, where I was exposed to more family members asking me what the hell was the matter with me. This was supposed to be a day of thankfulness and celebration. I knew that in the grand scheme of things being targeted on an internet message board was not that big a deal and that I had plenty in my life to be grateful for but with the emotional turmoil I was in, I wasn’t feeling very thankful or festive.

Then, just when I thought the situation with the forum couldn’t possibly get any worse, it did.

When Online is out of line: Glitter up your ass

That thread with my name on it was emotionally a hard thing for me to read.  Those comments in which people expressed disbelief at my age, accused me of using my disability as an excuse and implied that I was pathetic for living with my parents and spending a lot of time on the internet had preyed on my deepest insecurities and hit me in my most vulnerable spots. Those comments in which I was called an annoying, creepy, danger to the community had made me feel dehumanized, worthless and alienated. People had commented before in real life on my exceptionally good memory but no one had ever said it made me creepy or dangerous. Whenever they mentioned it it was in a complimentary manner. They found it impressive, admirable and a useful skill to have. Now even my assets were being turned in to weapons to be used against me.

There were however people who were sympathetic towards me and defended me against my attackers.

LionHeart wrote:

“It raises my hackles when people who barely ever post here anymore only pop up to bitch about how much Kira or the board sucks and are then gone with the wind. That kind of thing has happened here before and it nearly destroyed the board. I think the board may be swirling slowly down the drain anyway but perhaps we could do it with a shred of dignity.

But now that Kira is on a 2-week break all those who say she is killing the board for them won’t have to look at her heinous threads and she won’t beat them to all the scintillating topics they are just dying to post. I’m sure we’ll have a virtual Renaissance.

I’m not the biggest fan of the format of Kira’s threads but they’re a direct result of people jumping her shit for just posing a topic and saying “What do you think about this?” If she were to start including her opinion she would absolutely get her shit jumped for something else. I have no doubt about that. I also find it laughable that people claim they are so traumatized by the questions she poses that they are unable to respond, even if the topic interests them.

Overall I’m most annoyed by the people who obviously still care enough about this board to try to run Kira off/change her entire personality but don’t care enough to post here much at all.”

Honeysuckle wrote: “I haven’t said anything about this issue so far but I’ll say something now.  I’m speaking out now because I feel this was the wrong way to handle the situation and I feel sorry for Kira reading this shit. In the other thread I thought it was agreed that a “Let’s talk about Kira” thread would be a bad idea but here we go.

I think what collectively went on certainly approached bullying. Moreover, what essentially is the difference between bullying someone and being cruel to them? I guess cruelty is more encompassing than bullying so in fact what’s been done to her was even worse than bullying.

I don’t believe for one second that Kira was deliberately being antagonistic. As far as I can tell she’s made plenty of effort to take others’ criticism in to account but she is who she is and she’s broken no rules. There’s no obligation to post according to the format she’s laid out and there’s no rule saying everyone can only post one thread a day. Getting defensive was not helpful to her but I don’t blame her one bit for feeling defensive and showing it.

I get why people are put off by some aspects of her posting but I can’t for the life of me figure out why if you really want to participate in this board, she’s what’s stopping you. If you don’t like the threads she starts find a thread you do like, if you have a topic you want to discuss, start a thread about it, if the only topics that interest you are the ones  Kira’s gotten to first and you can’t find a way of contributing that’s an actual contribution and not a criticism of how she posted it, somehow I doubt you wanted to discuss the topic all that much. It’s hardly fair or accurate to blame her for why the board is stagnating.

Something has gone very wrong here and it isn’t Kira.”

Angel wrote” So Kira posts too much on a public forum? Yet we are always hearing complaints about how slow and boring this place has become. Not stating her opinion is irritating?  There have been lots of times when I’ve asked friends for their input about an issue because I’m not sure what my own opinion is. Getting defensive when she’s called out on pretty much every word she types makes her a bad person? If I was getting jumped on all the time I’d have a bad attitude too.

If you don’t want to read what Kira posts don’t. Put her on ignore and go on with your blissful Kira-free lives. Jumping on her every time she posts is immature. You can’t force someone to be what you want them to be.

Imagine Kira as your daughter or your sister. Would you want them treated as you have treated Kira?  You bet your ass you wouldn’t. A little kindness goes a long way. Stop being assholes.”

Angel caught some flack for the things she said. Some said it was hypocritical to advocate kindness and then call people assholes. I guess I’m a hypocrite too then. Unkind people are assholes.

Smartypants said “Kira is a grown ass woman. I don’t think we have to treat her with kid gloves and I don’t think anyone subscribes to the notion that we’re nice and blow glitter up peoples’ asses. She’s annoying. People get annoyed and say things about it. Tough shit. Maybe that’s the consequence for her annoying behavior.  If this many people think you’re annoying maybe you are annoying. Maybe she should move on to another platform like Facebook and stop hijacking this board.”

I wouldn’t want anyone to blow glitter up my ass or treat me with kid gloves but I also didn’t want to be insulted by people who were acting like kids.  Being nice is usually considered a good thing but that board did seem to have this bizarre belief that nice is the opposite of smart and nice is the opposite of honest.

Quackers said “If a child of mine were getting upset about their online interactions I would be asking serious questions about the depth of those interactions and why they are being taken so seriously. Then I would take it as sign to wean them off of what was clearly causing a disproportionate emotional response.”

This exemplifies another misguided albeit common belief- that it’s unreasonable to be upset or angered by anything that is said on the internet or to take anything that’s said on the internet seriously because it’ ‘just the internet.’ This is nonsense. Words have power and words can hurt, whether they’re spoken, written or typed. The computer (or Iphone or tablet) screen between you and the people producing the words does not serve as a buffer against hurt feelings.

Moose Pimples said: “Actually if anyone in my family was behaving the way Kira was online I’d deliver the smackdown myself or watch the fallout with a great deal of schadenfreude and laugh my ass off as they got exactly what they deserved.”

If I told anyone in my family abut what was going on I was pretty sure they wouldn’t laugh or tell me I deserved to be treated that way but I had not told anyone about it because I found the whole situation embarrassing.

There were various other comments made in that thread:

“I have a great deal of sadness and compassion for Kira.  I suspect she’s had a lot of  setbacks in her offline life and has internalized the seemingly constant barrage of people telling her she’s a worthless failure. We don’t know about her life beyond what she chooses to share here but every time she posts I feel sad for her. She is a bright, articulate person and she seems to have utterly no one giving her the help she needs to improve her life.

I do think she uses this forum in unhealthy ways but I also think it does her good and provides some light in her life. I hope her break is a good one but I worry that it’s only going to isolate her further.”

“I appreciate that Kira has gotten many, many interesting discussions going here that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I don’t believe for one second that this board would be thriving more if she’d been more restrained in her posting. If she hadn’t been here the membership and participation rates would still have declined and it’s quite possible they would have declined much more dramatically than they did. Her enthusiasm for starting new topics is probably keeping as many people holding on as it’s driving others away.

That being said, I’m concerned about how invested she is in this place and I don’t feel good that her participation here, however much it might be keeping the forum going may be contributing to the decline of her mental health. Hasn’t she mentioned that she suffers from depression? I have no idea how I would react to a discussion like this if my mental health were less than optimal.”

“I think I know exactly what’s going to happen when Kira reads this thread and it’s not going to be pretty.”

” I would really like to stay away from the idea that Kira uses autism as an excuse. I find accusing someone of using their disability as an excuse to be rude and presumptuous. You are essentially telling someone that you know better than they do how their disability affects them. You are appointing yourself the supreme judge of how people are and are not allowed to be legitimately affected by autism without even being autistic yourself.”

“I used to use this board in a similar manner to the way people are suggesting that Kira uses it now. I posted just to post and it didn’t matter if the online interaction was meaningful. I just needed validation that I existed outside my bedroom.”

“The way Kira uses this board is problematic and unhealthy. It bothers me that there’s nothing we can do about that, not just for the board’s sake but for Kira’s as well.”

There were people who thought referring to me as “Miss I have autism” was unnecessarily  bitchy and then there were people who accused those people of being delicate snowflakes who would fall apart if someone looked at them the wrong way.

Q-Tip (sorry, now I’m just creating screen names based on random objects in my room) said “I think it’s wrong and pretty damn rude to ask Kira to take a break from the board. I see it as asking the weird kid who gets picked on at school to not come in while the mean kids are allowed to stay and play,”

Rabbit said she felt that it was kinder for the moderators to ask me to take a break than to have me stay and continue to experience what I perceived as being picked on and torn apart.

Oh, yes, it was so very kind of the moderators to ask me to take a break and then start a thread inviting everyone to pick on me and tear me apart when I wasn’t there to defend myself.  Some people on that board had compassion for me and some did not. Whoever the moderators were and however they felt about me, they showed an appalling lack of compassion by starting that thread.

Shortly before the forum administrator locked the thread HushPuppy said “Is anyone else uncomfortable that there are 10 pages about Kira? I’m surprised she’s still being discussed and dissected. Maybe we’re just as obsessed with her as she is with us.”

Yes, I was uncomfortable that there were ten pages devoted to discussing and dissecting me and yes, the obsession went both ways.

 

 

 

When Online is out of Line: No innocent victim

Although the moderators of that forum had never really come down on my side or spoken out against the people who attacked me, this time some of the people who attacked me were so far out of line, I held out hope that the mods would defend me and admonish my attackers.

Instead I got a message from them asking me to take a break from the board for two weeks and assuring me that it wasn’t meant as a punishment. It felt like a punishment to me and I didn’t appreciate that I was the one that was supposed to remove myself and not my attackers. Since I was so wrapped up in that forum and it was my main form of socialization, being away from it for two weeks was not appealing to me.

I replied by asking if I was really being given an option or if I was going to be forced to take a break. I said that it didn’t seem fair that I was being asked to leave when other people were bullying me, that they would just see that they could make me leave by antagonizing me.

This was the reply I got:

“Well, we’d prefer that you take a break on your own but since you don’t want to, we’re closing your account for two weeks starting tonight. We don’t like it but we’ve run out of other options. None of this is fair or unfair. It just is.

No one is making you go away. You are being sent away to get some perspective. Maybe you can think of ways to spend your time that don’t involve this board. Maybe you can follow the advice you’ve been given and post threads that are more personally meaningful to you.

No one is bullying you. They don’t like you and they’re no longer being polite about it. There’s a difference. We’ll deal with those people but you’re no innocent victim in all of this. We’d ask that you stop flying off the handle every time you think someone is being rude to you. It only escalates the situation and you’ve been wrong about the other person’s intention more often than not. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt and we’ll request that others do the same for you.”

I felt rather gaslit by that response and I found parts of it to be ridiculous. I don’t think I’d been wrong about the other person’s intention more often than not. The only instance I could recall in which I supposedly misread someone’s intention was when Marcia said something I perceived as a slight against me and she claimed she didn’t mean it like that. Considering Marcia’s history of attacking me, I think I can be forgiven for perceiving it that way.  Making passive aggressive statements to insult someone else and then claiming they’re misinterpreting you when they get upset about it is an emotional manipulation technique as is telling someone that their perceptions of reality are usually wrong.

Another way to gaslight someone is to tell them they’re always over reacting to things they have legitimate reasons to be upset about. Yes, I had certainly gotten defensive on that forum but I saw that as a natural reaction to being attacked, not as ‘flying off the handle’ in reaction to imagined slights. I didn’t just think people were being rude to me, I knew they were being rude to me. Sometimes it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt but sometimes there’s no benefit of the doubt to give. When Marcia called me a troll was I supposed to assume she was complimenting me on my brightly colored hair?

These people were ‘no longer being polite’ to me but they weren’t being rude to me?  Considering all the awful things that had been said to me on that forum, I was surprised at how hurt I was by the statement ‘They don’t like you.’ It’s human nature to want to be liked. Logically I know not everyone’s going to like me but I don’t like being disliked by a large group of people.

That subforum in which I was being reprimanded for posting threads that weren’t personally meaningful to me?  It was called Outside and Impersonal. The thread in which I was reprimanded? It was about something that was happening in the town right next to the town in which I lived.

The moderators, however, were absolutely right that I needed to get some perspective and find ways of spending time that didn’t involve the forum. Unfortunately perspective and better ways of spending my time were not things that would come to me easily.  Nor would they come to me quickly.

Reading and participating in that thread had been traumatic for me.  Every cruel insult, negative comment and nasty criticism was like a prick to my skin and left me with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  The notice that I had been suspended for two weeks left me feeling like I had been punched in the face. That night I went to a movie but I didn’t comprehend it much at all because I was so upset and my mind was so preoccupied.  Unfortunately my trauma was just beginning.

The next morning I contacted Bernadette.

“Hey, how are you?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I’m pissed that you were forced to take a break from the forum but no one who antagonized you was.”

“What’s going on on the board?”

“The mods started a thread with your name on it.”

 

 

 

 

Why Saraha is a bad idea

There’s an app called Saraha that’s gotten popular.  The premise of it is simple. You set up an account and people leave anonymous comments about you. Some of my friends have gotten in to it but I have no desire to try it. I’ve had enough mean comments made about me on the internet without Saraha’s help.

Some of the comments about me have been made under identified user names, some of them have been made anonymously and some of them have been made by people who aren’t quite as anonymous as they think they are. If you want one example of this, look at the comments sections of some of my blog posts. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about a conflict I had with a former Facebook friend. I called him Dick for the sake of anonymity but he came on my blog under his own name to tell me off and threaten me with legal action. Some friends of his also showed up to defend him.

A few weeks ago someone left nasty comments on my blog under an anonymous user name. The snooty, condescending tone of the comments sounded familiar so I did an IP check. Not only did the IP match up with Dick’s, it also matched up with the IPs of his “friends”.  The funniest part is that he talked to his friends as himself and corrected information they gave about him in order to humble brag.

Dick, I know you’re reading this blog post because you’ve made it clear that you just can’t get enough of me. Now that you know I’m on to you, I hope you’ll refrain from further trolling the comments section of my blog. Even if you post from a different computer, your snooty, condescending tone will be a dead give away.

Anyway, now that I’ve said my piece about Dick, back to Saraha. It’s a bad idea because it provides a platform for cyberbullying. When people are given anonymity and thus have no accountability for their words, they feel more comfortable saying things that are cruel, horrible and threatening.  As annoying as Facebook’s real name policy can be, the reasoning behind it is sound.

Sarahah responded to criticisms of cyberbullying by saying that it was an app designed for adults that did not belong in the hands of children. Anyone who thinks cyberbullying or bullying in general is limited to children is naïve. Bullying happens all the time among adults and it can be just as bad if not worse than the kind of bullying that happens among children.

The intent of Saraha is to give constructive criticism and some people do use it for that purpose but if you’re going to give criticism that is constructive then it’s best to give it to the person under your own identity.  Direct, constructive communication is the basis for a healthy relationship in which both parties are satisfied with each other. If the relationship is a healthy one the person receiving the constructive criticism should be able to listen to and consider it without flipping out on or seeking to punish the person who gave it. I’m thinking that the kind of people who aren’t receptive to constructive criticism given to them directly probably aren’t too receptive to anonymous constructive criticism either.

If what you’re saying to the other person is just mean and not helpful it doesn’t need to be said at all. The whole anonymity thing leaves you guessing about who left the comments.  The person who received a mean comment might incorrectly guess that the mean comment was left by a certain person they know and as a result they might treat that person in a hostile manner, which is really unfair to the person who is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Saraha has also been used to leave nice comments. If you have something nice to say to someone then by all means say it directly to the person under your own name. It’s a sad statement on society when we only feel comfortable showing kindness anonymously.

Saraha was originally developed in Saudi Arabia, where direct constructive criticism is just not considered socially acceptable. I’m sorry that things are like that in Saudi Arabia and I’m happy if Saraha has helped them in that regard but please, let’s not encourage this kind of indirect, passive aggressive communication in other cultures. Let’s keep our lines of communication open and direct.  Let us be not afraid to give or receive constructive criticism under our own names. Let us be decent and tactful even when we’re criticizing and let us not resort to anonymous nastiness. Let us not hesitate to directly tell people under our own name that we appreciate them and think they’re wonderful.

Although I’ve never used any kind of anonymous comment app, I’ve been the victim of a nastygram through one of those things. When Googling myself I came across a message calling me a troll. The message was accompanied by pictures of trolls. I’ve had people call me a troll directly and that hurt but this anonymous message felt particularly low and immature. It was on an app called Whisper, which I’d never heard of. I Googled it and found that it was intended to combat cyberbullying. So, yeah, an app intended to combat cyberbullying was being used to cyberbully me. I can see Sarahah going in that same direction. I will be staying far, far away from it and I suggest you stay away from it too.