Yes, they’re everywhere. Bullies even find their way onto authors’ blogs and writing lists. It’s a part of life no one wants to deal with, but sometimes we don’t have a choice. Eleanor Roosevelt said,
“Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.”
The longer I work online, the more opportunities I have to come across those caustic personalities that seem to revel in controversy, negativity, or just plain madness. Nothing can bring you down like a bad review, but those are just blips on our career radars. Sometimes we can learn from them, sometimes we just need to laugh (and dust off our shoulders). Bullies, however, invading our online communities are another matter entirely.
One of the things I have learned about dealing with bullies on the internet is it’s not about winning. You can’t “beat” someone at stirring a pot of trouble. Walking away from, or in the case of being online, just ignoring, seems to be the best method for dealing with troublemakers. Eventually they do get bored and go away. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have them booted from the group. But what if you have a point to make?
One of my favorite comments came from an authors’ list many moons ago. This fabulous, brave woman declared,
"You can't chase me away, because I'm not running. And if
you don't want a lemon pie in your face, maybe you should make apple
instead. Because you're gonna eat your words, one way or another."
Wow. That being said, she got her point across to the person giving her a hard time. It doesn’t seem fair to always have to bite your tongue and look the other way. Bullies shouldn’t be able to get away with it. But before you confront a bully directly on their bad behavior, consider this:
Recently, an acquaintance in one of my writing groups has had to deal with online interference from a woman who had worked in her office! This bully had given her a hard time at work, and then once my acquaintance changed jobs, continued to pursue throwing rocks at her from online. Almost stalking--but I digress…
Writing is art. It is a creative experience that releases, relaxes, encourages, enlivens, and gives so many of us purpose. The ability to write is a gift, and no one has a right to take that away. People who bring contention into our daily lives aren’t welcome, so don’t allow the same sort to influence to ruin your experience working on the web. This includes confronting and wasting your energy arguing or trying to “one up” a bully. Folks like that thrive on any attention--and sometimes the worst the better. So protective your self from those sorts, but at the same time, don’t let yourself get sucked in. Defend yourself, walk away, and then forget about it. Remember Thumper’s Rule: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Then get back to doing what you do best--writing.