Some authors have been bullied online. Whether by readers, reviewers, other authors or all of them, cruel words hurt. These days, most social networks have steps you can take to try to stop bullying, but at what point do personal attacks become bullying? At what point do you report the person’s activities to the administrators and stick the bullying label on it?
One nasty review with a personal attack or derogatory words is unpleasant, but it isn’t bullying until that same person or their friends or cohorts make another attack. And even if they spread their dislike onto other social media networks, it isn’t bullying unless it happens repeatedly over a period of time. By definition bullying means that the attacks are sustained. Sustained is a vague word, though. At what point could you say something is sustained? After one day, two, three? Or would it require a week? The answer to that depends on the sensitivity of the person being attacked, the nature of the attacks, and on how extreme and widespread the attacks are.
I have been abused via email by authors upset over negative reviews given by the Awesome Indies. As the review co-ordinator, I got the vitriol. I also got negative reviews on one of my free short stories that mentioned AI reviewers in a negative light. The comments were an attack on the AI, not related to the book. My reviews on others’ books also received negative comments about the AI. Amazon removed all these comments without me even asking because they were clearly an attempt to discredit me and the AI. But I didn’t consider it bullying because they were isolated attacks. I reacted by not releasing the name of a book’s reviewer and by getting someone else to liaise with authors over their reviews. (There is a C.J, but that isn’t his real name.)
I’ve also heard about people bad mouthing the AI on forums, but I never go there to see what’s going on. I rely on our supporters to balance out the opinions of those with sour grapes. So, though I have had some bad press, so to speak, and some personal attacks, it hasn’t been bad enough for me to consider it bullying, or maybe I just haven’t seen it. Mind you, I’m pretty good at blocking those who can’t share their ideas in a polite and respectful way. I don’t engage in any way, I don’t approve abusive blog comments, and on other sites, I report anything abusive immediately. Have I nipped potential bullies in the bud? I don’t know.
But regardless of my own experience, abuse of anyone in any form disturbs me, and though I can’t do anything to stop bullies, I can help those being bullied to handle the situation in a way that will cause them least upset, and even make them stronger. That was the intention behind my YA novel You Can’t Shatter Me. And now I’ve written what could be considered the adult version of it, Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds.
The central character is an author and a reviewer. The bully is an author who abuses her because of a review she wrote, but his abuse also takes the form of a review of her book, so we see the issue from both points of view—author and reviewer. His review seems innocuous enough; only in the light of his other activities can it be seen as part of a systematic bullying campaign. The book raises many questions on this and related topics, but it also shows, as one early reader said, “A fascinating insight into the mind of someone using meditative techniques to deal with stress.”
Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds is once again available now at all ebook outlets and you can buy it here directly as well.
Have you been bullied online? At what point did you decide it was bullying?