Bullying, Twitter, and the In Between

Like others today, I’ve been watching actions and reactions about something that happened last night when an author sent a thoroughly inappropriate series of emails to an agent.  The agent posted these emails, with name included, and it became something of a joke. At the author’s expense.

I first want to direct you to two other fantastic posts that are probably better written than this.  I think Myra McEntire’s came first, and then Kirsten Hubbard’s.  EDIT:  Oops, and Saundra Mitchell’s, which I hadn’t seen until after posting.

And I just want to say that while I don’t completely agree with either of these wonderful women, I do find both of their posts incredibly beneficial, and courageous.  It couldn’t have been easy to write, or post, those blogs, but they did so anyway, because they felt like they needed to say their peace.  So please consider going over there and showing them your support and thanking them for stepping up and saying something.

I just have a very different perspective than they do, and that’s okay.  I’m not saying they’re wrong.  Just the opposite.  I think its very important to stand up for what you’re thinking and feeling, and express that.

I think the main point in where I deviate is comparing the bullying of an adolescent girl, with the reactionary amusement at the expense of an adult man.  I have a very different view of what “being bullied” entails.  Maybe this is because I’ve been bullied, I’ve been harassed and tormented.  Not just in school, but in my professional life too (not as a writer though, thank God).  I think I can’t see the two as similar (or see how one is a testament to the other) because the situations are very different.  And I think that comparing the two situations is like comparing apples and cement.

Teens who are bullied in school aren’t generally the provokers, from my experience.  Someone comes after them.  This particular author provoked the situation by disrespecting the agent, demeaning her because of her gender, and insulting her clients.

Kids who are bullied are bullied constantly, not just for a day or two.  This situation over blogs and Twitter will have blown over in a day or so.   People say that once something is on the internet, its out there for good.  And that’s true, but its not something that’s going to be at the forefront of people’s minds.   But this writer also has a publishing career, has been published by some bigger houses, and I don’t necessarily believe that one agent’s opinion can seriously blackball him from an entire community.  James Frey still has a career, and he was humiliated in a much broader, more public forum.

And the main one – one is an adolescent, still going through the process of development.  The other is an adult male, who may or may not have his own share of issues, but is still an adult male at the end of the day.  The responsibility for his actions, and their consequences, should solely rest on HIS shoulders.  And I feel like putting the two of them into the categories of BULLY or VICTIM makes him somehow less culpable, because its saying that someone else was MORE inappropriate.

Phoebe Price (that’s the girl who killed herself) was the inspiration for Carrie Jones and Megan Kelly to start the Young Adult Authors Against Bullying.  I strongly urge everyone to go there and consider what they’re saying.  And I absolutely agree with people taking a stand to state how they feel.  But I feel like comparing this situation to Phoebe’s story is a very large leap.  And its unfair.   Because it places the Author in question into the role of Phoebe Price, and it places the Agent into the role of the girls who caused her death.  And that’s a very radicial, sensationalized version of what’s going on.  The situation on Twitter should stand on its own merits and faults, not be instantly compared to a much more tragic, horrifying event.

But I do urge everyone to think about what bullying means to you, what it means to stay silent (or not), and to really THINK about how you feel about the situation.

Note:  Please don’t use specifics in the comments (should you leave a comment).  I’d rather not have to delete anything.

6 thoughts on “Bullying, Twitter, and the In Between

  1. The thing is, the girls who tormented Phoebe Prince thought they were justified, too. Phoebe slept with one of their boyfriends- she actively chose to do that, and obviously, that’s an extremely uncool thing. But it doesn’t justify tormenting her.

    The guy who got snotty over form replies- extremely uncool thing. It was a jerkish thing to do. But that doesn’t mean he deserved to have that agent and a whole cloud of TOTAL STRANGERS on Twitter slap him around all day.

    The response to wrong is not more wrong. Somebody *has* to rise above- and it may not be *fair*, but life isn’t fair. Somebody has to stop the cycle.

    • I should clarify, I’m not trying to condone anything that happened in a blog, Twitter, or anywhere else on the Internet. I also agree with you that the response to wrong should not be more wrong.

      I think my point (which I may have lost along the way) was that the situations are VERY different. It’s the comparison that situation A is equal to situation B that made me post, not that I was trying to exonerate anyone, or justify how they happened.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

      • They are *absolutely* different, vastly, massively different in scale, I’ll agree with you there! Thank you for including your voice in the discussion, and for welcoming mine here as well!

  2. hey Scott,

    this is a beautiful & gracious post.
    I do want to mention that my intent wasn’t to compare this angry man to Phoebe, so much as remark on the irony of the timing; of course the situations are very different. Ultimately, I’m so glad we’re having this conversation, and I really admire you for posting this & encouraging people to think.

    • I think that’s the only bright side to the whole situation – it encourages people to think. And I think that everyone who’s posted so far today has done such a great job. It’s an important discussion, and the kind I think all of us need to have more often.

      Thank you!

  3. I need to start this off by saying that I’m not proud of choosing to post as Anon. But I can see that this is becoming a bigger issue, and I can’t let go of the ‘career fear’ that many have mentioned. For this I’m sorry.

    I had already read the blog posts you mentioned and my very first reaction was the very same as yours, Scott.

    I agree that it was an intense decision to post the full name of the author, and then make an actual contest out of it. But the sad fact is that probably 70% of the people that participated in the contest were SIMPLY doing it because their dream agent encouraged it. I wouldn’t say this was bullying, I’d say it was mindless following.

    I feel very strongly that even off-handedly comparing this situation to Phoebe’s is pretty disturbing. Phoebe Price put up with bullying, both physically and mentally at school, and also virtually. It was over a much longer period of time of torment. She was a teenager. She decided to kill herself. I do not blame Phoebe for this, but I don’t exactly blame her ignorant bullies either.

    I believe it’s vastly inappropriate to even mention these two situations together as if they could easily go hand-in-hand, whether it be because of the timing or something else. Timing is pointless, there are young people and adults alike who are bullied to their breaking points every single day all over the world, and they have been all throughout the history of humanity.

    The whole situation did indeed leave a bad taste in my mouth, however I would never go out of my way to proclaim my opinion. Yes, names were left out, but if you know the situation you automatically know the names.

    It doesn’t make it any classier to pretend you are taking the higher road by leaving out names. You’re still pubicly going on record to talk about someone else for a negative reason. And now there is all this pressure over Twitter to RT what link YOU stand for. All it’s going to cause is more seperation. “Because not speaking out is almost as bad” ?

    Not speaking out ‘against’ something is NOT the same as doing it. It’s simply evidence that you realize everyone thinks about things differently, no matter what inspires or discourages you. Not everything is so cut and dry!

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