I woke this morning to sad reports that a young Supernatural fan had killed herself after being bullied by ‘anonymous’ on Tumblr.
I’ve watched the first season of Supernatural, own several other seasons on DVD, and it’s on the list of things I’ll watch Some Day. (All I want is to live long enough to retire so I can knock out my entertainment bucket list.)
In other words, I’m not part of that fandom, (though I have friends who are) and I’m still enraged that this could happen.
Some are denying it happened. I’m not close enough to the situation to know for certain, but will say this: they’re missing the point. While it is undeniably a tragedy for this fan and her family if it did happen, in one sense, it doesn’t matter if it didn’t – because those of us who’ve been in fandoms long enough all know that it absolutely could happen, undoubtedly will at some point, and probably already has, and just went unremarked on by the world at large.
And that pisses me off.
I’m not addressing the bullies here, by the way, because every time I’ve ever interacted with a troll, they’ve been skilled masters at justifying their behavior, so I won’t waste my time.
No, these comments are to two other groups of people:
The first are those who are, right now, feeling harassed or bullied. Since the trolls work hard to deny, always, that that’s what they’re doing, I’ll define web bullying as someone seeking out another person for the express purpose of saying hateful things. This can be via anonymous comments on Tumblr, targeted tweets on Twitter, posting about the person on another site, or personal messages via any medium (like say, on Fanfiction.net, when the messages don’t have to do with fanfic.) Oh, and another one I particularly like: the bully who tells another person that they can’t be friends with them if they’re also friends with you.
If any of that is happening to you right now, you probably already know that you shouldn’t let them get to you, and that not doing so is a lot harder than it sounds.
It’s hard, but try to look at it objectively. Take a breath and think about them, about their character (which is the last thing they want you to do – I guarantee it.) Is this a person you respect? Or want in your life in any capacity? Why should a person who apparently has nothing better to do with their life but to spend it trying to make you miserable have any input at all into how you see yourself? They’re the losers.
Anyone who gets up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to see if I can make another person feel bad about themselves today” or, “I’m bored, so I’m going to go post messages of hate about people in the fandom” …they don’t deserve one moment of your time.
Not. One. Moment.
It doesn’t matter why they say they’re doing it, or what you supposedly did to earn their attention. Truly, it doesn’t. Even if in some corner of your mind, you’re afraid they have a point…they don’t. Healthy, sane people don’t go around posting messages of hate about other people. They don’t follow them from site to site, don’t cower behind the label ‘anonymous,’ and they don’t fixate on making others miserable. And unhealthy, crazy people don’t have any right to make you feel bad about yourself. Period.
Also? Find sane people to hang with, who’ll support you. Every fandom has them. This isn’t about agreeing with you about the show, by the way. It’s about learning to recognize the decent human beings who are out there. I’ve disagreed, sometimes vehemently, with people I trust, absolutely, to have my back. Find yours. Keep looking.
Bullies of any stripe piss me off. Don’t let them win.
My last comment is to the rest of us, those who are neither bullies nor victims.
I’ve never bullied anyone; it wouldn’t occur to me to spend my days following someone around online in order to spread hate. But I can think of a few times when I’ve lost my cool, generally in response either to those insisting their view is the only one, or to those trying to make others unhappy, for whatever weird reasons. Really, though, the why doesn’t matter: I was snarky or angry and later regretted it, because that’s not who I want to be.
At the heart of most fandom conflict, whether it reaches the level of bullying or not, is the need to be RIGHT at all costs, the compulsion that requires everyone to agree with us on every point. Whether it’s which show is best or whether or not a plotline is stupid, it always comes down to needing others to validate our views by agreeing with us.
It’s never going to happen.
We’re never all going to agree, about anything – including things a lot more important than a TV show.
The difficulty is accepting that truth, while navigating the debates which are the heart of fandom. But the answer isn’t to avoid talking to people with different views, nor is it to pretend to agree when we don’t.
I don’t know what the answer is, honestly. But I believe a better world begins with choices we make, every day, in every interaction.
What if we all, every one of us, just said, “In 2015, I’m going to be more concerned with being kind, or at least civil, than I am in being acknowledged as ‘right'”?
What if we truly listened before respectfully disagreeing; if we just walked away from arguments no one can win; if we were strong enough not to need people to agree with us on every point, and if we all rejected bullying when we see it happening, in whatever form it takes…what would that Web be like?
What if we reclaimed the Web for the side of sanity, one person, one interaction at a time?
Because I’m human, I’ll certainly fail at some point, and I apologize in advance for that. But I’m going to do my damnedest in 2015 to be part of the solution to hate.
Will you join me?