The Hazards of Cyberlife: On the Loss of Social Conscience, and Living in the Age of Trolls

A couple of weeks ago, some of you will know that I experienced what I consider to be a massive violation of privacy. This involved someone creating a false name and e-mail address in an effort to solicit a password to a protected post, and then proceeding to share said post publicly with influential people, and make empty threats of invented consequence solely to scare and intimidate. My argument was always that it was never publicSaid post wasn’t even that bad – it was my simply my own opinion, in my own space, shared with people of my choosing – in the same manner in which one may share thoughts verbally with a coworker, in a quiet corner of the office lunch room. It’s not the same thing as standing on a podium with a loudspeaker at the next staff meeting, advertising how you really feel about your benefits package, paycheque, or supervisor’s wardrobe. Password-protecting a post, intending never to offend, but to share an opinion, seemed like a pretty safe way to express myself. But in the age of the Internet, it seemed I was couldn’t have been more wrong.

This situation really got me thinking. Over the last few years, as the power of Facebook, blogging, and other social media has increased its stranglehold on society, I’ve experienced my fair share of cyber-attacks, ranging from online stalking to identity theft to explosions of slander and hate mail. And lately, a new specimen of online pest seems to be breeding: the troll. I’ve seen incidents all across the blogosphere – kind, sincere people becoming victims of the most cowardly form of bullying there is. Genuine hearts on sleeves being attacked by the Anonymous Commenter who has nothing better to do than prey on people, either when they’re experiencing something awesome (in an endeavour to bring them down), or when they’re going through something tough (in a spiteful attempt to break them). Our generation has one enormous factor affecting it that was nonexistent twenty years ago: The Internet.  And the psychological and societal effects of being so interconnected – whether good or bad – are nothing short of fascinating.

I remember, years ago, going through a breakup. I was pretty down, and I quickly learned that heartache was one of the most effective forms of troll bait. In this case, it was the circle of friends of The Ex, who swarmed on my newly single Facebook page, and proceeded to send a barrage of spiteful e-mails telling me I was the worst thing that ever happened to their friend, and that I should go back to England, “because nobody wants me in this country anyway”.  Looking back, it’s interesting – would these boys carry out this behaviour if we were to have run into each other on the street, face to face? There’s no way of fully proving an alternate scenario of the past, but I’d place a pretty strong bet on no. Another incident happened in the spring. A friend of said Ex was in one of the same social circles as a friend of mine, who told me that (four years after the breakup), this friend was still spouting off to anyone who’d listen what a “psycho” I was. And had created a fake Facebook account with stolen pictures from my old MySpace page, stuck my name on it, and proceeded to write bitchy comments on her own page, AS ME, to prove her point.  Why is it that when personal interaction and consequence is removed, so are people’s social boundaries? Without accountability for their actions, people will say and do all sorts of appalling things – simply because they can be anonymous. What does this say about people?

via verlverl.deviantart.com

This leads me to a news story that was big on UK radio last week, and hit local newspapers yesterday: Cyberbullying. 15-year-old kids committing suicide after being threatened on Facebook. Children being terrified to go to school. 13-year-olds photos being stolen from Facebook, photoshopped onto naked bodies and put on porn sites. There is no law that recognizes cyberbullying as a crime, and nothing police can do. And people are realising that something needs to be done. I remember going to school almost fifteen years ago and hearing the news that a fellow student had been stabbed by another. I remember how terrifiying it was, thinking that someone in our midst was capable of murder. But when these people can get to you outside the real world, online, where you can be targeted in your own home – there’s no escape. They’re not just in your face, they’re in your own personal free time, in your own personal space. And, thanks to the new generation of mass interconnectivity, it can overtake someone’s life to the point where the preferred alternative is death.

What about the trolls that exist on the plethora of forums and public spaces across the web? The ones who spend their evenings scouring YouTube for music videos, of contestants on X Factor or people in their homes, singing some song for the pure joy of it, and take immense satisfaction from leaving the most spiteful comments they can. YouTube comment channels are some of the most negative places I’ve visited online, and it blows my mind how anyone can take pleasure from creating hurt and pain to another. Let’s examine the life and thought pattern of such a person for a second. For someone to gain satisfaction and pleasure from inflicting pain and upset on another, it means they either a) have no source of joy in their life, so in order to feel better about themselves, they try and make others more miserable than they are, b) are mentally twisted, disturbed people who have no grip on reality, or c) searching for something over which they can have control; perhaps lacking control of their own life, they hit the jackpot of being able to control something, without consequence, by creating a reaction.  When you frame it like this – are they really worth bothering with the energy of getting upset?

No – think for a second what life must be like, for someone who goes to the lengths of preying on innocent people, taking the time to read their story, creating false or anonymous identities and leaving childish, hate-filled comments. Life must be pretty sad if that’s how you’re choosing to spend your time. And so next time you fall victim to someone’s attempt at causing hurt, remember that. Remember that in real life, they wouldn’t have two balls to knock together to do something similar. Remember how sad their lives must be, and remember how incredibly cowardly this form of childish bullying actually is. And perhaps choose pity instead.

The other thing that fascinates me is that we all know there are people like this out there. We all know the risks of identity theft, personal attack, slander and anonymous hate mail. Yet, even as simple Facebook users, but especially as bloggers, we continue to give the world access to every detail of our lives. What is it about the Internet that demands such open access to every facet of our thoughts, emotions, and life events? Why do we feel the need to broadcast our innermost desires across the entire globe? It has to be a generational thing. There’s a growing form of stigma attached to social networking and online presence, and it’s commonly equated with being modern, forward-thinking, and successful. The more online you are, the more respect you’ll have from the rest of the world. The cooler you’ll seem. I think, in a way, it’s a form of international, mass-scale peer pressure. And that’s a bit of a scary thought. But at the same time, spending such a large chunk of my life online has led to incredible things. It’s led to personal growth, meeting some of the best friends I’ve ever had, free theatre tickets, international trips, and rekindled romance. It’s allowed me to find my own voice, share it with the world, and subsequently tell the genuine from the fake. It’s made me feel close to friends and family in faraway places, and it’s made me feel connected to the rest of the world, in a sense of ongoing community. The Internet has brought about some of the most wonderful events, things, and people of my life, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

But it’s a relatively new force in human evolution. It’s changed the face of communication, made information available instantly, yet made us more impatient as a result. It’s brought people closer together, but it’s put people at risk of privacy invasion, bullying, and identity theft. It’s a simultaneously strange, awful and wonderful force on humanity, and I think the effects on upcoming generations are going to be very interesting indeed. For now, though, the benefits far outweigh the risks, and I’m going to continue riding this wave of technology. Cybercrime isn’t going to go away – in fact I’m sure this post itself may be pretty effective at drawing some trolls out of the woodwork (how’s it going, 66.90.73.223?) – but I just think it’s important that we recognise it for what it really is: incredibly cowardly endeavours by people with the emotional intelligence of a five year old trying to get a reaction, hidden away behind their computer screens. People who have no say or influence over your life, whose own lives are probably pretty void of happiness, integrity, and purpose. And that’s not really worth paying too much attention to at all.

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90 comments

  1. Haha Em, I doubt that troll knows his own IP address… 🙂

    For me, I find it easier to think of trolls as just that – like in your picture – little monsters that have no power and can cause no harm. I understand that to an underdeveloped younger person especially they can be dangerous, and I think we need to figure out what we can do to help that situation.

    But to someone like you or me, you’re right: they aren’t worth the time spent thinking about them. There’s always gonna be haters, and they only get more numerous and louder the more successful you become.

    Whatever.

    1. It reminds me of a great song from a couple of years ago, “Talking” by the Rifles – ‘everywhere you go there’s people talking all about you…’ unfortunately there’s nothing that will ever be able to stop it. I’m hoping something gets done though – there has to be some kind of law eventually…

  2. I am in absolute agreement. I have learned to censor myself, to pre-edit, to speak in coded language to my closest friends. To never give personal details in any post that I make. It’s a razors edge. I’ve had similar experiences with people publicly attacking me online when a former friend brought his friend, who made other guests uncomfortable and broke things in my home and car, to a party I threw then proceeded to publicly ridicule me. I sent him an email advising the guy ‘who brought that guy’ to stay away from me. My email was then edited, then posted as a note, to which mutual ‘friends’ that didn’t like me flamed me after being defriended and blocked. The comment thread was about 53 deep when someone copied and pasted it to me. The last 3 or 4 comments were guests at the party, who defended me which was nice, they were promptly deleted as well. (Who can probably guess who said person was)

    It is my opinion that while its true that there no laws on cyber bullying, there are laws on slander and defamation of character, and I feel that there should be more legal actions when someone takes an actionable stance in actively trying to harm your life. Since were in Canada likely not for millions of dollars. But at least something for mental distress and possible loss of income that might happen as a result of an employer seeing, and believing, untrue statements. Then maybe people would think twice. Money talks.

      1. In terms of slander and defamation, the best defense is the truth, however. I believe sociopaths NEED to be outted and stopped and I was glad I outted mine and he was an attorney to bout.

        1. I meant to write to boot. He tortured me making fun or our dead soldiers knowing my child was on active duty. This was because I had identified him and he could no longer abuse and scam me behind his “cyber blankie”

    1. I was tortured by a sociopath online and he is an attorney. He knew my child was on active duty and made fun of all the dead soldiers. I will never feel safe again and I (thankfully) never met him.

        1. He became deranged when I found his true identity calling me the C word and saying I belong in Hell. I still have trouble sleeping and I am still recovering from this.

  3. They are everywhere and love nothing more than a reaction, any reaction, that allows them to be near or at the center of the conversation. What’s incredible to me is that they all seem to be the same person, as if the internet has ignited some latent “on line asshole” part of the brain. Ignoring them is all you can do, any kind of a reply or acknowledgment is just feeding the fire.

    1. You’re right – they are looking for a reaction. But the sad thing is they don’t get one in return; they get one behind the scenes, as the victim goes over and over it in their heads… it’s terrible. But you’re right, they do all seem to be the same person! Luckily with IP tracing and techie friends, it’s pretty easy to figure out who they are… which only furthers their idiocy 🙂

  4. I HATE Anonymous commenters who leave hurtful/dumb comments! That is SUCH a pet peeve of mine!

    I have thought about the internet and its effect on our society. It is a VERY interesting topic! I think this is why I found The Social Network to be so very good, because it shined a light on this very debate.

    What’s funny is, I can remember a time before the internet, and before cell phones. The weird thing is, our kids will not. I wonder if we rely TOO much on technology nowadays…sometimes I think (needed) real human interaction is hindered because of it.

    1. I really need to watch The Social Network! D isn’t really interested in watching it so I may have to wait for DVD… but I’m very intrigued about the film. Human interaction and its subsequent evolution after technological advances is fascinating, and kind of sad when you think about all the bad things like cyberbullying, impatience, and complete contentment to sit inside your house all week communicating digitally without any “real” human interaction at all…

  5. This was (as always) an incredibly interesting and well-put blog post. But then I’ve come to expect that from you. 😉

    Just this morning I was reading one of my favorite blogs; the blogger in question is at the moment also being attacked by a “troll”.

    It’s so silly and makes me sad. There are really people out there with nothing better to do than hurt others – and that’s so wrong.

  6. Hi Emily:

    I’m sorry this stuff happened to you…it truly amazes me the kinds of things that some people think it’s okay to say “in public.”

    I’ve been incredibly lucky with my own blog…in the roughly 1000 comments left by readers, I’ve had only one comment that I’ve deleted because it was clearly left by an offensive troll (who was also homophobic!). However, I tend to steer clear of controversial topics which get people upset (like politics and religion). I want people to feel good when they “visit” me, and to come away with positive vibes. We’ve all got way too much bad stuff in our lives already…

    Wendy

    1. And that’s one of the reasons I like your blog, because it is so positive 🙂 A huge part of my reason for blogging is to try and make an impact – a positive one. But what’s also important is being very honest in what I write. Sometimes I’ll write about things that may raise eyebrows, but it’s always with the intention of bettering the world even if just a tiny bit in one person’s mind, I hope to spark a thought that initiates some kind of positive change. Sometimes honesty isn’t what people want to hear though, and often that’ll cause a controversial or negative reaction. But as I’ve always said about the theatre, if it causes a reaction, whether that’s crying, getting upset, laughing, or feeling inspired to change something – then it means it’s substantial, right? Well, I hope so anyway 🙂

  7. As someone who has had their fair share of cyberbullying done to them, and also had my online identity stolen once or twice, I can certainly identify with this post. It is probably fair to say that by putting ourselves out there as bloggers we are opening ourselves up to the chance of being cyber-bullied more than others . . . but that doesn’t mean we deserve it. It’s one thing to make an anonymous comment when you don’t agree with someone’s opinion (although it holds more sway with me if you have the courage of your conviction and don’t hide behind anonymity) but to unnecessarily make spiteful comments, to seem to be spoiling for a fight for no reason other than one’s own sick pleasures . . . that pisses me off big time.

    1. Definitely. Hiding behind anonymity just proves they don’t have the guts to attach their name to what they’re doing, because they know it’d make them look like a complete a-hole. We just have to remember how cowardly they are, and undeserving of a reaction or allowing it to upset us.

  8. I loved this post; it does make me nervous about building my website though 😛

    I cannot believe the person who made a fake facebook page for you! That is just so spiteful!

    1. It is, but doesn’t it say a huge amount about their integrity and character? Don’t worry – I’ll help you fend off the trolls! We can get Hector and Tybalt to help too 🙂

  9. brave and brilliant as always em. i always leave your blog feeling more inspired and enligthened about facing the world and i love how you’re not scared to call people out when they’re being arses. it’s terrible we have to deal with bullying at all but your right, doing it from behind a monitor just shows how cowardly they really are.

  10. I was just thinking about all this the other day – the pros and cons of the Internet. Especially that one part about finding your voice and sharing it with the world. It’s wonderful for me, someone who may or may not speak up (usually not) about something, to be able to say what I want to say. The power of words amazes me. And the power of other people’s words, that ability to know we can count on them writing something and reading it, is so cool.

    On the downside, I’d definitely seen the trolls in real life, and I can tell you they’re cowardly. They mocked me on MySpace comments and passed notes to each other during class about me and never once said it to my face. It’s almost worse, knowing someone’s saying something but because they never directly address you, you can’t say anything. I guess what I’m saying is, I need to remember your words and stop letting people have that power.

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve been subject to these trolls as well 😦 They do feed on power, though, and as much as I hope you don’t have to deal with them ever again, if you do, please remember it’s a result of cowardice and usually, jealousy.

  11. Trolls are such a hard thing to deal with, I feel profoundly lucky to have only had to deal with a few in my three years of blogging actively, but I think that trolls and negative comments are something that all bloggers have to deal with eventually. The fact that you know these people is truly scary, and I think you have it exactly right- it’s not just some random loser trying to start a fight- it’s cyber bullying, it’s cowardly, and it’s really scary to see that capacity in people.

    I think that rather than blogging being about peer pressure to talk about our lives or be super online, for me it’s more about wanting to connect and reach out, and to participate in a mutual give and take. I started my blog because I was reading so many amazing blogs, and felt like I wanted to participate just that little bit more, to be a part of something. And now it’s taken on a life of it’s own, and almost everything amazing and good that’s happened to me in the past year has come from a seed planted online. I think that’s why trolls and bullies are so upsetting and confusing- they break that contract of participation and community that our blogs live in.

    It’s one thing to differ with someone over something or to have a hard past but trying to hurt or humiliate someone over that demonstrates a really appalling lack of character.

    1. It does, and I think that has to be why they hide behind anonymity. Because attaching a name to the action attaches their name to being a terrible human being!! Interesting point on cyberbullying breaking the contract of community – I like that. I think that’s definitely got to have something to do with why it is so upsetting.

    1. Thanks… and your comment just reminded me of that song by My Chemical Romance…

      “When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city
      To see a marching band
      He said, “Son, when you grow up, would you be the saviour of the broken,
      the beaten and the damned?”
      He said “Will you defeat them, your demons, and all the non-believers,
      the plans that they have made?”

      🙂

  12. This is such a scary topic and unfortunately it’s growing bigger with more and more people spending more and more time online. What once happened in schools is now invading kids personal lives where they can see the words, re-read them, until they’re ingrained in their heads and drive them crazy. I really hope the law recognizes what a significant issue this really is. If someone pushed somebody off a bridge and killed them, they’d be jailed for life. But if someone pushes someone to the extent of jumping off a bridge by continual online bullying, nothing happens. It’s awful. I’m sorry you had to go through some of the crazy things you did but I admire your attitude towards it and applaud you for writing about it today.

  13. That was a GREAT post. I just spent 20 minutes so absorbed in it I forgot I was at work (sh*t here comes the boss!). I have a limited online presence and can’t imagine having your ‘open book’ philosophy.

    Also, congrats on the nearing nuptials. I have an overwhelming urge to send you a basket full of kittens in celebration.

      1. You’re welcome 🙂

        And did you know there’s a position at the Humane Society called ‘Official Cat Cuddler’. You help maintain the cat’s environment by tidying and such, but your primary job is to snuggle with kitties! OMG, but volunteer job EV-AR!

  14. I remember when I was a bride on The Knot and someone found out all the details about someone else’s wedding and canceled all her vendors – in some cases putting her out of deposit money. It was pretty horrible, especially if you stop to consider that this all happened via the internet.

    It’s pretty sad. It makes me wonder why people have to be so cruel to each other. And when you think of all the bullying going on you’d think that we as adults could set a better example.

    1. I can’t BELIEVE that happened, that’s beyond appalling!! I had a bit of cyber bullying when I was involved in the Weddingbells thing in the summer, too, people making fake names and leaving really nasty comments about me on my posts. I had to have the editors on standby to alert them every time I saw something because they were pretty set on making me look bad. I just don’t understand the spite of some people, or the rationale behind causing so much hurt 😦

  15. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I think it is sometime hard for people to draw a boundary when interacting online. Because they’re (usually) at home and absorbed in their thoughts the lines of propriety are so easy to cross without thinking. They would never say those things in real life, and probably don’t even truly believe them when they write them online.

    On a different topic, I’m a Winnipegger now living in the UK. It looks like we swapped places! 🙂

  16. Well put. I used to intentionally start fights in the chat room I frequented long before there was a word for troll. It was childish, mean, and a total waste of time. In fact, people are still angry with me about some of those things, and it’s been (in most cases) well over 10 years.

    The thing is, people who do this don’t feel good about themselves, and doing this doesn’t make them feel any better about themselves. Nothing can replace confidence. If you have the opposite of confidence, there’s no low you won’t sink to because you already hate yourself. You reach a certain point where if you can get other people to hate you, or love you, then perhaps you’ve accomplished something. It doesn’t fix anything. It just happens to take years to learn this.

    You should pity them. Some don’t make it through at all.

    The good news is that these people just need to grow a little, realize there’s more to life, and that they’re worth more than the way they treat themselves. Life is a one-way street, it just has a lot of detours along the way.

    1. And you raise a good point about people still being upset ten years later – I think when people say something mean, whether intentional or not, recent or in the past, it has a nasty way of burrowing its way into your heart and really doing some damage.

      I think the best thing we can do about trolls is acknowledge them for what they are, pity them, and hope they do end up growing and becoming better people in the end…

  17. Very well put dear. I always tell my daughter not to go on Facebook because she went through something like you did after a break up as well and started getting nasty messages from the boy and his friends. I remember her crying because she would see them talking about her and I told her, all you have to do is not go on Face book! But it is a new generation and you might be right about it taking over the way we communicate. I guess as parents it is hard to know how to deal with something that wasn’t around when we were your age. But I admire you putting this out there today, and the attitude you encourage. I will be showing this to my daughter!

    1. I’m so sorry your poor daughter had to go through something like that. People can be so mean online because there’s no accountability or consequence to them 😦 I don’t know if there’s a way of stopping this generation and the generations from now on from social media – and I think it can be a very GOOD thing (it’s allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, and got me reconnected after 6 years with my now husband-to-be!) – I just think there need to be some measures put in place to stop this sort of thing happening. Legally. With the ongoing evolution of IT, surely the police could start employing techies to track the source of these messages, and the good thing is, it’s all written evidence… I hope it starts being given the attention it needs.

  18. I don’t think that I could have written a more strong post than the one you have put on here. Cyber bullying, cyber theft, and cyber anonymity has been an issue I have dealt with since middle school–really. I think it hit the worst note in America two years ago when a site circulated called juicycampus–which was built so that people at colleges could leave anonymous messages about everyone at the school. I had never seen so many people insulted in my life–and every single post was left anonymously. I think it says a lot about our societies…and how we like to hide our meanness and how passive agressive we really are. I am a firm believer in putting your name by anything you want to say. I don’t really think there is a point to say it otherwise…you want your opinion to be known–why wouldn’t you want people to know who you are. Ugh. I’ve been a victim on a number of occassions. It’s disheartening. There was a story a few years ago about some mom who made up a fake boy and stalked one of her daughter’s enemies and drove the girl to commit suicide by being so cruel to her. Ugh sorry for my rant, but this hits hard–Great post as usual Miss Emily—Great post.

    1. Thank you… I think it’s a really important issue that goes unacknowledged a lot of the time, and I hope something can be done. I can’t believe PARENTS would do this to children as well… to that extent… and get away with it. How appalling 😦

  19. I have been really fortunate to only have to have dealt with one troll in my blogging existence because I’m not sure I can handle more than one! It’s such an appalling trait and I don’t understand why a person would waste time on it.

    Cyber-bullying is such a scary concept because it has led to so many suicides. I think one of the worst cases of it was a MOTHER cyber-bullying one of her daughter’s friends so much to the point the girl committed suicide. I can understand the immaturity in teenagers, but for a grown woman to do this to a child…I can’t even fathom that! The good news is that it’s getting more and more press, and lots of celebrities are stepping up to get behind stopping it. Hopefully, some good will happen soon.

  20. well said–youtube comments just throw me for a loop. who has time to watch a million videos of a band you don’t like just so you can say something mean about their music? it’s sad…
    but it’s like anything in life. it’s what humans do: twist the good and use it poorly and irresponsibly.
    i love the internet. i hate the internet.

  21. Well done, once again! I remember my first anonymous comment. I cried for days about it because it hurt me so badly. I wish I had your wise words to reflect on then! I’m sorry someone did that to you! Jealous people with a lot of time on their hands are awful.

  22. I agree with everything 100%. But if I have to choose, I’ll have to choose a. They have no source of joy in their life, so in order to feel better about themselves, they try and make others more miserable than they are. This is why I don’t allow anonymous comments on my blog. If they have something mean to say, they’re gonna have to own up to it.

    What’s worse is that people in real life who has the “need” to bring other people down to feel better about themselves can do this more online because they can be anonymous. These people are obviously disturbed. It’s not healthy to take pleasure from other people’s pain.

  23. I think there are a few different things going on here. First, you have your personal relationships using the Internet to bully. We see this with the mom who cyberbullied her daughter’s classmate (resulting in a suicide) and we see it with your Ex’s friend using MySpace to slander you. The second is the anonymous troll who doesn’t know you but uses comments and email to tear you down because it makes them feel better. We see this mostly in blogs, sometimes elsewhere. The third thing is disclosure of personal information using privacy tools. What you said about your blog being private information is not technically true. I imagine that when this person you know created a false name and emailed you, you didn’t know who they were. That’s incredibly dangerous, especially if you’re tryin to keep this information out of the wrong hands. You know me, so when I asked for it, it was OK, but you probably didn’t know this person. Not writing about it and putting a privacy lock on it, not even giving out to people. But giving it out to people who have not been vetted through previous encounters. Now, if the person used the name of someone you did know, then that’s not your fault. They not only made up a false name, but they mislead you into believing they were someone you actually knew. But it’s really important, I think, when saying “ask me for the password” that you’re not setting yourself up. Make sure that when you send the password out, that you actually know who this person is. Otherwise, you might as well have made it public, because at the end of the day, if you’re going to send the password to anyone who asks, what difference does it really make? I don’t want this to come off as being mean, but I think there are ways to prevent this next time you choose to lock your posts.

    As for the trolls and cyber-bullies, fuck ’em.

    1. Haha, indeed 🙂

      Interesting points – the person who asked for it was one of the people it was never intended to reach, however the name they chose for their false alias was also the name of someone I know through blogging and have on Facebook, and I’d thought it was her. It was a very calculated attempt to solicit the password through creating an identity believable enough to be someone I knew.

  24. I think I am in a very lucky position in being able to say that I have not had any negative experiences with the Internet… yet!
    I don’t know what that says about me or my internet presence *haha*

    Anyway, I think cyber-bullying is one of the most cowardish things to do. It’s easy to ignore a spiteful comment or a negative attitude, but Em, really had to deal with really mean cyber-bullying by having people hack your blog or creating fake accounts to gain access. That’s a lot of effort for someone to put in to harm you.
    I am so sorry. You seem like such a lovely girl and you don’t deserve that at all. 😦

  25. I completely feel for you. Back in the late 90s/early 2000’s, I had everything from my cellphone posted all over pedophilia websites (and subsequently had to change it) to crushing anonymous comments, my parent’s home address passed out on tons of sites and cleavage-y photos (oops?) sent to my DAD. People feel so much more villainous when they don’t actually have to be linked to their actions. Think of the story of the MOTHER who created a fake FB identity just to lure in her daughter’s enemy and then harass her to the point the little girl took her own life. Nothing quite like morality nowadays right???

  26. I had to deal with just this thing 3 years ago. Since then I’ve been forced to really police my own content and identity on the internet. It’s crazy that it’s such an issue now-a-days and we continually get nasty anonymous comments on our photography blog by jealous trolls without the balls to use even a fake name. I know, without a doubt, that 99% of the mean troll behaviors would never happen in person. People feel emboldened by the “anonymity” of the internet.

  27. This is interesting… you bring a fresh perspective on what the internet has done to people. I can talk all day about this.

    It really amazes me how our society has evolved in the past 10 years, and it’s all because of the internet. People think, act, and socialize in such a different way, but in my opinion, I think it’s terrible. Communication may be easier and simpler, but it’s far less personal and sincere. Facebook is an impersonal cyberspace, where millions of people seek some sort of comfort, yet they are by themselves, alone in a room, in front of a buzzing computer screen. How is this socializing? Perhaps we may differ in opinion, but I believe we were meant to be outside, under the sun, seeing the colors of the world, talking face to face. It scares me that this social-network phenomena is sweeping across the entire globe, objectifying social interaction and depersonalizing people who are obscured through the coldness of cyberspace. And truly, I think it’s creating more problems than just giving cowards a cover to hide behind. I’ve had so many relationships that were damaged through facebook. I had conflicts that were exacerbated through facebook messages (because true feeling can be SO ambiguous in letters), anxieties that were heightened as my social life invaded it’s way into my bedroom via the computer, and relationships that lingered on much longer than they should have because they depended on facebook instead of developing face-to-face. This is why I deleted my Facebook, because I hated what it did to my social life. I really don’t what to make of it all, and in a way it really scares me. I don’t want my kids growing up glued to the computer screen when they should be outside.

    I loved this article. You brought out the psychologist in me (my major in college). Well written!

    1. Thank you so much!! 🙂 I love psychology – I wish I’d taken more of it in university. Social media is seen as “the way forward” and a necessity of modern day communication, but it’s not without its effects on socialization and behaviour…

  28. I think that the internet just amplifies the bad in some persons. They may not act like this in real life but hiding behind a computer screen allows them to be a**holes without having to worry about implications. I think there’s a potential bully hiding in many people, and the internet makes it so easy to be one.
    For me personally, the good has far outweighed the bad and I have met so many nice people online that make up for the very few bad ones. I have become much more careful with what I share online, though, especially when it’s associated with my (full) name.

  29. What a great post! One of my favorite bloggers was bullied by a troll for months. It’s really just pathetic that somebody would choose to spend their time that way. It’s pretty interesting to think about the negative effects of social networking sites and I loved how you summed it up.

  30. People can be just so darn mean… I have never received a m ean comment on my blog, but I have read plenty of mean comments – and I just heard about a blog whose sole purpose is to make fun of another blogger. What? What is wrong with people? It’s just so sad, isn’t it? There are a lot of mean people out there…

  31. I still can’t believe what happened to you. It’s so low, so pathetic, of that person to have wasted such an extraordinary amount of time trying to make a huge deal out of something that simply wasn’t. I’m very proud of you for the way you handled it though. While being upset, which you had every right to be, you also handled it with grace and healthy perspective on things.

    I’ve been lucky enough to never have had to deal with any negative comments or negativity thrown my way online. I don’t know what I’d do if it did happen.

  32. Couldn’t agree more. How sad is life if you spend your free time writing nasty comments to people you don’t know hidden behind a computer screen?

    My husband and I were just talking about the bullying of kids issue. It used to be you could go home and get away from bullies, but now, they follow you home via text message and twitter and facebook and the whole world wide web. I can’t imagine how hard that must be for kids.

  33. Wow… amazing read, and the comments too…

    I used to run a writing website, back in the days before blogging exploded across the internet, and learned early on that you really cannoy predict what apparently sane people will do when handed anonymity and an audience. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories I could tell about false identities, insults, and arguments people started with themselves

    Anyway – the IP address you gave… resides in Woodstock 🙂

  34. Nifty new set-up!

    I find this fascinating as well, from a psychological perspective. People who use passive aggression are some of the most self-hating people, and it’s interesting how you seem to have fallen victim to a number of them. Perhaps your honesty and assertive nature (at least online) is intimidating to them. One thing is certain; strong feelings of inadequacy underlie “anonymous” criticisms.

    Have you ever seen the documentary “Heckler?” It’s a documentary about an actor (a terrible one, as far as I can tell), who makes a bad movie (I believe The Mask:2) The movie explores his depression and recovery after reading the horrible reviews his movie got from amateur film critics online. He confronts a number of them about some particularly cruel comments. It’s a good laugh, and definitely touches on a number of points your raised here.

    I LOVE your blog, for what it’s worth. “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”

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  36. I love the point you’re making: In real life those trolls would not dare to say what they’re saying on the internet. Trolls are really people with no power who are looking for a place to be powerful.

    In respect of privacy: I understand that people don’t necessarily want to give away their adress and phone number on the internet (although: this is information every stalker might just as easily find in the phone book). For me, as blogger and artist who uses the internet to reach her audience, staying anonymous would just be ineffective. I want to connect with people, I want to share my story, I want to step up and dare to be who I am. That works best when I don’t hide myself.

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