It is a brutal digital-world we now live in. To enjoy the privileges of communicating on the Internet through social media (whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, or other social media site), one has to be willing to deal with the haters, the trolls and the cyberbullies.
Six weeks ago, I wrote an opinion article about how a rabid fanbase was destroying their own reputation and jeopardizing the chance of renewal of their favorite television show, and the flood-gates of abuse opened. (LINK: “Did BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’s Rabid Fandom Seal its Show’s Fate?”)
As soon as the article was posted by my editor, my Twitter timeline blew up with a variety of negative tweets, some mild and some very hostile and threatening; most of which I quickly blocked so I did not have to listen to (read) all the vitriol being hurled my direction.
Apparently, the average Twitter user is unaware of the fact that spewing angry tweets at a person by tagging them or sending them directed tweets as unwanted comments can be simply blocked. Those First Amendment rights only extend so far: you can say it, but I do not have to listen to it. Plus, as infamously ignored by some, the First Amendment does not protect all forms of speech: hate speech and threats are never protected speech.
Similarly, I chose to ignore the comments being posted beneath my article as much of the comments were guaranteed to be from angry fans and I was trusting my editor to weed out the more inappropriate comments.
Yet, astoundingly, six hours later my editor sent me an email alerting me that he was taking my article down after receiving a number of scary, threatening emails — not comments, but actual threatening emails.
Six hours. That’s how fast the angry horde of fans was able to scare my hardened editor into submission into removing a controversial article. Over the years I have written numerous controversial articles that made a variety of fan bases very upset – but this was the first and only time my editor was so scared for his and my safety that he felt compelled to take down an opinion article.
But that wasn’t enough. The angry, hateful and threatening Twitter responses continued. Some merely called into question my journalistic professionalism, some demanded termination of my job, some just engaged in name calling, and some just hurled profanities, as if the person was not sure what else to say. Curiously, many of these offensive tweets quickly vanished as soon as I blocked those Twitter users. Guess they really didn’t want to see if I was actually going to report them. But simply Tweeting and deleting after it is read and the person blocked does not mean it did not happen. It’s like juvenile kids who ring your doorbell, yell something at you, and then runaway before they can be caught.
Then other less creative types, just simply tweeted to me the same message over and over again; such as, I just needed to watch their show and give it a chance. Those tweets were ridiculous on multiple levels: for one, I am already watching that particular show; and two, repeatedly sending me the same twitter message 100+ times was not an effective way to persuade someone to watch a TV show. (FYI, that person could have easily figured I was already watching the show if they had simply looked at some of my past articles or my twitter feed.)
Interestingly, a few other outraged fans wrote their own personal diatribes on their own Facebook or web pages rebuking me for whatever awful sin they felt I had committed by writing my article. One outright listed my full name and linked back to my article to make sure I knew it was directed at me. Another article omitted my name, but included all the necessary details to ensure everyone knew the article was about me – and also linked back to my article. (That was really was a dead give-away on that one.)
So over the past six weeks, I’ve spent anywhere from a few minutes to several hours each day blocking users who simply wanted to spew negativity and hate tweets that were either about me or directed to me.
I reported a few of the more egregious twitter users for Twitter-abuse, and I reported the one silly person who repeatedly spammed me with the same tweet over and over again. Thankfully Twitter does have an option for reporting such abusers. Imagine a world where we were actually forced to listen to all that hatred and abuse for hours on end? It’s like having people protesting outside your home – so Twitter-blocking is equivalent of being able to slam the door and shut out the noise.
The number one rule for dealing with cyberbullies is: do not engage. Do not respond to whatever is being said; just block them if the digital harassment is on Twitter; or if it gets too repetitive and specifically threatening, report the abuse to whatever governing agency monitors and handles that form of cyber-abuse.
Fortunately, it is much easier to combat the trolls at my website, as each person seeking to post a comment must submit their full name and email address – which immediately discourages the majority of cyberbullies who seek to hide behind their anonymity.
Further interesting was finding out that the majority of the comments I received in response to my article (once I had reposted it at my personal website) were from others who had been subjected to cyberbullying themselves. In fact, many applauded my refusal to be intimidated by the bullies.
It is alarming how prevalent and wide-spread cyberbullying has become on social media – and the fact that people think that is permissible and legal is appalling. Apparently, mob-mentality really takes over when groups of people feel like their TV show is being threatened. It’s a TV show, people. No one wants to hear your threats or insults; and it is never the best method for saving a TV show.
It also highlighted how Twitter users seem to be unaware of how to use Twitter without straying into prohibited and unwelcome speech, such as: threats, hate-speech or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined pretty broadly. As defined on Wikipedia: Cyberbullying is the use of Information Technology (computer devices) to harm or harass in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner that may threaten a victim’s earnings, employment, reputation, or safety.
Disparaging me as a journalist and asking for my editor to fire me is just one form of cyberbullying. Sending tweets with profanity and other abuse is another. And saying that I am a bad person and need to be taught a lesson, well, that constitutes a threat. Then dissemination of defamatory comments and inaccurate information is yet another form of cyberbullying and harassment.
The magnitude of the cyberbullying I have been subjected to because of one article has been incredible — and it has only been over a six-week period. Just imagine what levels it will reach within six months or even a year. I shudder to imagine.
(NOTE: To clarify, I am not paid or compensated to tweet about television shows or participate in live-tweets. All such action on my part is voluntary and unpaid. In addition, my personal website is hosted at a site which prohibits receipt of compensation through advertising. Thus, I receive no financial compensation or advertising revenue for articles posted at TheTVwatchtower website.)