wings and things

Who are you and why are you so nasty?

on December 2, 2013

I have a rather nasty taste in my mouth at the moment because I have been reading about some people’s taste for nastiness, or cyber-nastiness to be exact – well that’s what I call it anyway. A few moments ago I saw a lovely photo on Facebook (yes I am back on it!) of a black man reaching his hand out to a white baby.

I liked the photo and its caption and found it heart-warming. So I was surprised to read some very nasty comments and interchanges in response to the photo. Various critical points were made by some and phrased politely, but other people became quite hateful in their comments.

Lately I have been seeing more and more of this on the internet – people voicing nastiness with such ferocity it is breathtaking. Of course, with Facebook and WordPress and other social media sites, there are rules, but obviously this is almost impossible to monitor unless someone is being obscenely abusive.

The thing that most bothers me about this trend is the anonymity with which nasty comments, statements, opinions etc. are made. I read a couple of news feeds and often a human interest article will be attacked by certain readers and then readers will attack each other with no respect for the fact that we are all real people. Many of the nasty things written on social media sites would never be said face-to-face because in real-life, real-time situations, there is usually an expected decorum. Not so on the internet. Anybody can pretty much say anything they like to anybody else behind the safety of their computer or phone screen.

But why? Why do so many people expend so much time and energy on being nasty on the internet? I was the recipient of some rather nasty commentary on my friend’s blog the other day. The person commenting was not known to me so I was flummoxed by his passionate diatribe against my rather innocuous comment and he proceeded to crowd my friend’s post with long-winded speeches against me, and against my friend who rose to my defense. I responded a few times then gave up because I realized everything I said just seemed to fuel his irrational fury. I would love to recount the dialogue but respect my blogger friend’s privacy so suffice it to say that my initial comment had nothing to do with politics, race, gender or religion – ie. it was not an attackable comment!

The experience was a learning curve for me, so I am glad for it because it has made me even carefuller of my words than I already was – ha. But the main thing this experience showed me was what cyber-bullying might be like for a young person. One of the things this particular bully did was to make assumptions about me and to label me; when I didn’t immediately reply, he equated my silence with guilt; when I did reply, he launched another sermonesque attack. Even though I was astounded and felt extremely misunderstood, I wasn’t hurt – more bemused I guess.

But if I had been 12 or 15 or even in my 20s, I would have been profoundly hurt and affected. And this, I think, is what is so worrying about social media for our beautiful young people. If you read of cases of cyber-bullying and its effects on so many young people (including suicide), it is easy to brush this off as a passing phase, a bizarre incident, or ‘my kid isn’t on Fbook so s/he’s okay’.

I am not saying that my above experience was a case of cyber-bullying exactly. After all, I am an adult and I can take it. But if I had been a kid, I would have crumbled.

66 responses to “Who are you and why are you so nasty?

  1. Anonymous says:

    There are some very nasty, cowardly people hiding behind their computers Julie. I bet they wouldn’t be so brave or vocal face to face!

  2. Rhonda says:

    Well spotted and well said Jules. Nowhere in the terms and conditions or the license agreements do I recall it being stated that these social media sites were to be launching pads for small minded, cruel intentioned, little cowards…yet here they are, being used for that very thing. It’s hard to keep quiet, for me anyway, and like you, I’ve found it best to step away when it’s obvious there is no rationale behind the tirades. But when our children are the targets…all of our children…just try to keep me out of it. I’m sorry (and more than a little surprised) that anyone would take anything you say in such a way as to think you needed dressing down…it’s apparent this idiot is not only NOT your friend, but he/she is NO friend of your blogging friend either…xo

    • jmgoyder says:

      I am not sure if this kind of behaviour is more prevalent now or whether I am just noticing it more – horrible.

      • Rhonda says:

        Well as I’ve only been part of the blogging community a couple years, I can’t say it’s more prevalent or not…but I’m seeing it more and more on FB, so I’d say it’s getting worse. And yes, horrible it is.

  3. ytaba36 says:

    As “Anon” has said, how brave would these folks be face to face. It must make victims of cyber-bullying feel so helpless and violated.

  4. bulldog says:

    There are many of them out there with not much to do but pick a fight with someone… I tend to ignore them on FB and if they persist I go at them with full force… I think they soon feel they are not going to get the better of me and slowly disappear to look for an easier target… but FB is full of them, yet I wonder how they are getting onto my page when I have never friended them…

  5. Rachel's Ramblings says:

    Hi Julie I’m anon lol don’t know why it didn’t come up with my name πŸ™‚

  6. I don’t even know what to say except that rage is irrational.I don’t understand it and I don’t think that I ever will. I find it a little frightening that for some, rage comes very easily. I agree with you that cyber bullying has to be stopped and the anonymity is a contributing factor. I wish there was something that we could do to help our little ones from the nastiness of the world. 😦

  7. I cannot understand why people even bother to stop by if all they are going to do is post nasty comments. They probably hide behind a false identity as well.

  8. PS. I hide behind a pseudonym but not a false identity. There is a difference

  9. Great post. I have “seen” it happen on many places. More on FaceBook than WordPress. I never understood/understand such seething hatred or cruelty in others. I refuse to accept it. Like you, if I was younger and it happened to me, it would crush me. It’s only very recently that I would be able to let it go (I hope!).

  10. ksbeth says:

    i find this awful julie and have heard from others that there are internet ‘trolls’, whose only mission is to be cruel and cause arguments online. they are anonymous, choose randomly, and just do it for the ‘fun’ of it. i’m sorry this happened to you, but know that it is not you, and is not personal, just some sick person’s idea of fun.

  11. mimijk says:

    One of the disgusting side effects of being anonymous…of hiding behind the weak curtain of believing that you can spew absolute venom and remain immune from the consequences. These are the moments when I hope karma finds its way..though I realize that’s not very kind on my part.

  12. There’s a lot of ugly out there, that’s for sure…

  13. shoreacres says:

    The problem is real. It’s precisely why I stay away from social media and never, but (almost) never read the comments attached to online news articles. If I find a blog where nastiness is allowed, or is part of the post, I stop reading it. And I never, ever comment on a post where foul language and such is a usual part of a post. I don’t want my name associated with it.

    And of course, when it comes to blogs, the responsibility lies with the blog owner. I haven’t had much problem, but one time I did email someone and ask them to either delete or rephrase a comment to avoid certain problems. The commenter disappeared and hasn’t been back, at least that I know.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that I finally came to terms with it all by realizing I can’t change others’ behavior, but I can control myself and my blog. It’s not always easy – that’s why I try to avoid flame wars. I could get sucked in myself – it happens easily.

  14. elizabeth says:

    There have always been nasty people Jules, but cyber bullies seem to be a breed of their own. They are uneducated, unevolved, little nobodys who become sombody by bullying and belittling others. That said, I used to moderate a poetry forum and the nastiness from educated adults was just as disgusting and sickening.

  15. That whole comment thing has never happened to me on WordPress, but I have had people fighting on fmy acebook page as a result of something I posted. It’s weird. I tend to stay out of it and let them duke it out. It’s usually the same guy who goes into a rant and it’s always been about politics or religion. What amazes me is how it becomes about personal attacks, i.e., well I’m not surprised you’re a conservative because you’re an idiot, for example… sigh

  16. Terry says:

    I think people hide behind the screen, thinking they are talking to a wall, but the one reading has feelings. It does happen way too often, I have noticed too

  17. You’re right Julie..cyber bullying and just nastiness are different but both so unnecessary and mean.In Canada we are now close to passing a stiff law regarding cyber bullying which involves going to jail ….

    Regarding the nastiness on social media and word press…. I just experienced a ‘repeat’ performance .shortly after I first started blogging In Jan. 2012 I made a comment(s) and engaged an atheist in conversation… I did learn not to do this again as it served no purpose but to allow ‘ridiculousness’ from him. The reason I say ‘this week’ is that somehow I got a notification of 2 comments from ‘Sept 2013’ from 2 bloggers. ( I must have when I first started been confused re the ‘notify me of comments’ and checked it in error…. but still why get this in Nov ? from Sept. so I thought I would make a suggestion to this blogger since he had professed researching a lot…. to read a certain book. WRONG decision… as it only gave him an opportunity to spew forth more venom to me…. BAD !… But having learned my lesson I did not respond to his taunting… His blog is so full of ‘hate’ for Christians… and yet I think if he doesn’t make a threat wordpress would not consider taking it off so am ‘shaking off the dust of my boots’ as the Bible says!!! Sorry long story/comment !!!!! Diane

    • jmgoyder says:

      I’ve learned now not to respond at all or else just to respond politely I guess and then forget about it. So sorry you had this horrible experience again!

  18. You know where I stand on this. Hateful communication is best left ignored, feed that flame and it goes turns into war. None so blind as those who cannot see. I had one such interchange at my site between two followers and politely deleted it and let them know. My skin cringes when I think of what all this crap does to our young children’s heads, and lots of adults as well with unresolved wounds.

    I once read a great book by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements”, which has the best advice I’ve read to help get on top of bullying and hateful living (not intended for that audience but it comes to mind). They are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take things personally, don’t assume/project; and do your best. The way he writes and gets into it shows what words do, how they create realities, and hell. Your post here reminded me of this book.

    Thanks, Jules.

  19. tootlepedal says:

    It’s quite simple. Their parents didn’t love them as much as they thought that they ought to be loved and they are taking it out on everyone else.

    As a footnote I might add that my friend Dennis is quite disgusted about how polite everyone in the corner of the WordPress world that I inhabit is. “They are always saying nice things about you,” he said very crossly this morning. “That’s because I say deservedly nice things about them,” I replied.

    Perhaps you should have said something very nice to the troll who attacked you. I’ll offer you a suggestion: “What a profound observation, you are very intelligent. Thank you for your contribution”

    He won’t have heard language like that before and it might stun him into silence.

    May I add that as always it was a treat to read your intelligent and well expressed post,

    Best regards, Tom

    • jmgoyder says:

      Mostly WordPress seems like a safe cyberspace so that’s good. I hadn’t heard about the troll problem until now – interesting. Perhaps Dennis needs to make a controversial comment on one of your photographs to get the ball rolling out of politeness haha! I will join in the discussion and defend you and ‘bingo’ some arguments will ensue. Could be quite exciting. By the way, your comment made me laugh my head off!

  20. I’ve never understood the need to be confrontational on the internet either. I’ve been teaching my daughter that you never post anything that you would not want someone to say to you. Even better, only ever write something supportive or kind, or write nothing at all.

  21. The CNN religious blog published an article on commenters who do this kind of thing, and they characterized them into several categories. What was interesting was reading the comments to THAT piece. πŸ™‚ People can be very weird and blind, apparently, to their own faults. The anonymity factor is a big thing. They feel safe taking pot shots. But so many times they are so unkind, you have to wonder if they don’t have a life apart from their on-line presence. Who would want them as a friend?

    We have had a couple of shootings on our side of town in the past couple of years, and the comments on local on-line news articles have been horrifying. People feel very comfortable judging motives, tearing down grieving relatives, and trying to honor gang bangers–and this all because they can. They have an audience, and that seems to be all that is important.

    I “unfriended” πŸ™‚ an old friend I had reconnected with on FB for that reason. Every time he could disagree with me on something, he would, in a very caustic manner. And I was unwilling to have a debate every time. So, I decided I was not that desperate to have him back in my life! Sigh. What a world.

  22. cecilia says:

    This happened to me once and I was floored, it ate at me for days. I chose not to respond at all but adult or not, it hurts. It is good to be reminded that there are people at the end of these words.. real ones. Thank you Julie.. c.

  23. janechese says:

    I think all this anonymous publicity has brought out the worst in some, whether it be homophobia, racial bigotry, exhibitionism, etc. I am shocked at some comments and profane language attacking people on line (and I know how to swear). It saddens me and I make a choice not to jump into the fray. I am happy to encourage people with their work, pay compliments when due and enjoy all the positive things that are happening, even in the midst of one’s struggles.

  24. janeslog says:

    I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account because I think they are dangerous. People will always be nasty, whether it is on the internet or to your face. Rise above it.There are people I dislike, but I don’t post abusive stories on-line about them.

    Being physically attacked is worse.

  25. Lynda says:

    ” …I am an adult and I can take it.”

    Julie, I think the point to be made here is: Adult or Kid, you shouldn’t have to take it. 😦

  26. batgurrl says:

    Jules I have been fortunate with my little crow blog to not attract trolls. However before I came to wordpress I held a weekly political discussion in secondlife. This is a virtual word where you assume an avatar. My discussion was around my protest against the iraq war. Needless to say I got my share of negative attacks. At first I gave them their heads but if they became buulies I then just ignored them. The group (whoever was there) followed. So yes I agree we need to not feed the negativity and instead rally to our positive friends. Plus teach our children this. No matter what generation or tools there will be bullies. Hang in there they will be left in the dust. R

  27. KDKH says:

    Flamers are everywhere. They get off on upsetting people with outrageous statements. I know a few of these. I think it is some sort of twisted power play on there part. I just love the saying, “What you think about me is none of my business!” In other words, what they think is a reflection on them, not the person/thing/concept they criticize. Walking away without a backwards look is all you can do.

  28. Denise says:

    It’s easy to mouth off when there are no consequences, and the internet allows for that. No one has to take responsibility for what they say – hell, they don’t have to put a real name, so who’s to know?

    What I know is it can’t be easy to live in a mind that’s so torn with hate and cruelty, nor can it be easy to live with someone like that; whether or not said person “acts” that way all the time doesn’t matter. It’s there and abiding, and it hurts us all.

  29. Trisha says:

    The rudeness and disrespect is just appalling. I often find myself disheartened by the way people speak to one another on the internet. I’m glad you didn’t let this bizarre attack of you bother you!

  30. I also don’t get why some people feel it is ok to be right bastards to people they often do not know just because they can, I had to remove a status of Facebook earlier this year because a cousin of mine got all bent out of shape and nasty because she was not invited to a wedding even though she didn’t know the people getting married she got nasty and acted like she was being insulted because she was not invited to the wedding of people she did not know and had never met…………I think some people find it easier to be nasty then to be kind and others just like to start trouble and get some wierd kick out of insulting people

  31. I ran across this when I first got into the social internet in 2000, in what seemed a happy little gardening group called Back Yard Gardeners on Onelist, which morphed into Yahoogroups. In a thread where the other members were making jokes about how women could not use carpentry tools, and if they did, they should have pink ones, I said that when I was in high school girls were not allowed to take carpentry classes and I wished that we had been able to, and that I did know several woman in the trades who made a living as carpenters. Hoo boy. I was accused of being a “Feminazi’ and one of the members started a thread with my name as the thread title, all full of insults. I was shocked and shaken and even afraid. That was the end of my using my real name on most of the social sites. Much to folks’ surprise, my birth name is not really “Flora Gardener”. πŸ˜‰ I remember actually shaking while I was reading the vile attacks. (I left the group shortly thereafter). Now I have come to realize that this sort of thing is common on the internet, and I have my blog set so that I moderate comments.

  32. someone said their parents didn’t love them? ha! for some of these bully’s their “loving” parents are the ones who taught them that being a bully works. this goes against what we like to believe about these poor unloved jerks. that is not to say there aren’t some who have had a sad childhood. very often they have atleast one parent who has bullied and they have seen it work. rather than be a victim they choose to join in. sort of self-preservation. as an adult though they are making the choice to continue this behavior. there is no magic answer for the rest of us. i have found myself on the end of one of these sessions on facebook. it can be frustrating and amusing at the same time. being anonymous or in a crowd is often the catalyst but the fact is these people are just jerks.

  33. I don’t read comments anymore, not even here at WordPress. Too many people think they can be nasty simply because they can hide behind their computer monitor and keyboard.

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