On T.B.I., Trolls, and Threats
The pagan community on the internet is not united by any means. There are various factions and splinter groups. That is an average thing. A bunch of pagans together in one room can certainly fight like liberals and fundamentalists. Or, like frogs and snakes. That is probably average also. No biggie. I've been on the internet long enough to have my own opinions about cyberbullies and even to have acquired my very own cute little chicken trollette. That is no great woop either. I became interested in the study of cyberpsychology as a result of interpersonal conflicts on the web. And as I continued to force my brain to think in my own process of healing t.b.i., I grokked a few things about my own behavior and decisions:
1. I have acted like an ass at times on the interwebs. Oh well.
2. I made my apologies and amends. To the best of my ability, I endeavored to offer no excuses for my poor behavior.
3. I moved on.
I don't begrudge my detractors since I certainly have acted like an ass at times. In one instance, I was playing the part of an undercover reporter and that was the height of stupidity. I was deceptive. I was dishonest. People from various sides of that particular dispute were pissed at me for good reason.
In that particular scenario, I took responsibility for what I had done and endured the fallout. I learned from it. And I have to thank my good friend Jer for helping me think about the situation with clarity. Folks displayed various levels of acceptance as is their right. There are still snarks thrown in my general direction from time to time. To that I say, "Whatever." If I am going to champion freedom of electronic expression, I have to be willing to risk running into some expression that I don't approve of. Oh well. I don't have to engage in mental masturbation today. I know how to use the back button. I can put on my big girl panties and move on.
Unlike a few pathological relatives of my childhood who did their best to infest my being with the soul-sickness of not-good-enough, I do not intend to live out the rest of my life apologizing for my own stupidity of a year or two ago. I don't trouble myself with the notion that I am somehow not good enough for or less than any particular person or group of people. It is rather meaningless to me. I have moved on. I am writing about this today because I am making some connections within my own self about my own self.
* * *
Lest any of you misunderstand, the assumptions about me and the snarks do not fall under the category of cyber-bullying. People can fight, disagree, blow up at each other, call each other names, and all sorts of other stuff without that falling under pretend labels and pretend diagnoses. People do not always understand or approve of my choices. I don't have to explain a damn thing to anyone. I am free to associate with the people that I choose to associate with. I am free to go where I go and to do what I do as long as I don't impinge upon the rights of others. Others are free to do the same. Not everyone wishes me well and I don't give a damn about that anyway. The stuff of conflict is not automatically classified as cyberbullying.
The encyclopedia at P.C. magazine defines a cyberbully as "A person who uses the Internet to harass or intimidate someone else." Someone who calls me a troll or stupid or insane or a toxic fluffbunny or a fucktard is expressing an opinion. Their opinion may or may not have some validity. I am free to engage them in some ritualized name-calling or to respond or not respond in any legal way that I choose to.
The folks at tech target add the word "threatening" to the definition of a cyberbully. Sameer at the Cyberbullying Blog points out that the behavior is repetitive. There is a pattern. It is more than one occurrence. Someone e-mailed three requests to me to close her e-mail box on one of my domains. I have an off-line life. I hadn't checked my e-mail box there in a while so I only got the messages yesterday.
The first e-mail (dated June 29) states that there will be mythological salt pits in my future if I contact the young woman again. The second (dated July1) makes an unflattering inference about either my size or some quality of mine. She asks me in the second e-mail to delete her and in the third (dated July 2) to remove her. I know she meant for me to close her e-mail box but the choice of words was amusing to me. I did as requested. I have no intention of contacting her again. As long as the young woman does not continue to threaten me with mythological salt pits in my future or other stuff, we are both free to carry on in the absence of the well-wishes of the other.
The above example falls short on the repeated part of threat inherent in the definitions of cyberbullying. Here are some things that do qualify as cyberbullying:
maintaining a website that is designed to harass someone or threaten them,
posts on a website or forum or journal or blog that tell someone to watch out because the poster or friends of the poster may show up at any time,
making up lies about someone and publishing them on the web (e.g. the teen who killed herself on account of some stuff that was posted about her on MySpace and the teen who killed himself after being harassed on Bebo more recently),
texting someone for the purpose of intimidation,
making repeated fun of someone with social difficulties brought on by Asperger's on internet forums,
provoking someone in an e-group into rages and then mocking the rages,
sending someone tons of spam or bogus e-mails,
repeated racial slurs used in a chatroom against another participant.
The thing about traumatic brain injury, as well as many other disabilities, is that we are more vulnerable whether we want to acknowledge that or not. We may be more vulnerable to cyberbullying because of errors in our judgment. We may be too quick to trust others on-line, too eager to expose personal information, too fast to offer up our struggles. We can participate in flame wars without understanding what we are getting into. We can become too casual about what we publish on our websites or blogs. We may wind up communicating via instant messenger with folks who do not wish us well. (In the early days after my brain injury, a woman began to call me every day. Mate was baffled by the sudden appearance of a new close friend in my life and did not understand the almost daily lengthy phone conversations. I didn't remember who this woman was or where I knew her from. Eventually, I discovered that the woman was the daughter-in-law of a friend who just liked to talk to people on the phone).
Below are a few websites referenced in this post and a bunch that aren't. I recommend the "Are you a cyberbully? Quiz," the cyberethics site for those who like academic stuff, the Donna Williams poem, and the "Shrink the Cyberbully Game" by virtue of their being different than the usual offerings.
The other stuff may help you decide what to do if you are being cyberbullied. Inclusion of the links do not imply the endorsement of any of the websites endorsing this post nor does it imply that I totally agree with every freaking thing said.
sapphoq healing t.b.i.
Examples of cyberbullying.
Suggestions on handling cyberbullying.
A blog noting laws being passed in the United States.
Suggestions for parents.
Acknowledges that cyberbullying happens to adults too. Some simple advice.
Are you a cyberbully? Quiz.
Attention seekers from Bully-Online.
Cyberculture-- pretty cool stuff here.
Privacy from a cyber-business perspective.
Various links about cyberethics.
Identities, trolls, etc on usenet groups.
Search for copies of your pages on the web.
Archives of a site where trolls gathered proudly.
Writing: an excellent troll how to.
More extensive classifications of trolls.
Griefers. [They are on Second Life also].
Classifications of flame warriors *the pictures are priceless.
Poem by Donna Williams.
Trolls on the Curezone forums [original aol article not on aol anymore.]
Study on trolls in a feminist forum.
More on usenet trolls, attacking in waves, use of the word "sockpuppets" to mean one person
posting to a board under different names in order to agree with themselves!
smurfs and bots
shrink the cyberbully game