A couple of days ago I posted a rambling regarding the ever widening gap in the reading community that has been occurring on Facebook. It was born out, partly out of frustration and emotion and a lot out of the physical weariness I am experiencing at the moment.
Since Saturday, some will notice that I have edited this post and some of my corresponding comments. Having reread it I realised that it felt like an attack on one individual and it was never meant that way. I am very very sorry that this person has read the post and thought that I was directing all of my comments at her. It was never my intention. Yes, a small exchange had taken place on the dreaded Facebook, but I knew that this individual was also frustrated and hurt by the feeling of ‘blogger bashing’ that has been rife on social media of late.
I have to be clear. I do not think this person is a bully. I do not criticise them for making up hashtags, although I appreciate this is how it must have felt. I have nothing but regret for the fact I have made this person feel bad when they need support. I know this can be deemed as only words, and hindsight is a wonderful thing but I cannot change what has passed or what my comments have caused. I do feel awful. I have barely slept or eaten since Saturday and right now I cannot physically stop shaking. I feel like I am on the edge of a nervous breakdown for which I am mostly to blame. This person is hurt and that is my fault. I can only hope that someone shares this with her as I am truly sorry.
However, I do still believe that through the use of Social Media it is too easy to create a gang culture. It may not be intentional but when I see a reader attacking the blogging process then I feel sorry for their ignorance. When I see a number of bloggers telling them why they are wrong, I start to feel a little uncomfortable. This to me is a form of bullying. It is not intended; it is people who are passionate about what they believe in, defending their point of view against narrow mindedness and people not really understanding what bloggers do. I have been guilty of this myself, of joining in, but I am trying hard to see it from another’s point of view. If I were that reader, how would I feel if, rightly or wrongly, I made a comment about something I didn’t like and ten bloggers all started to post telling me I was wrong. I bite back. It escalates. Passions and tempers boil over. A lot of what happened this weekend has spilled over from other bashing sessions; people are raw, but most of the internet is oblivious to this fact. Without context it just seems mean. That’s what I would see if I was that reader.
I also understand what a blogger sees. A lot of time is given to championing books. For love not money. When people question the motivation and integrity of that it hurts. I do not know of any blogger who does not give up an infinite amount of time and expense in the name of ‘free’ blogging. However, criticism is born of ignorance and the expectation set by media and advertising in general. Those carefully scripted ‘I’m a genuine punter’ adverts for insurance or car sales, so very obviously featuring paid actors. People just assume blogging is the same. It leads to scepticism and criticism. It leads to disagreements that get out of control, and comments which may well be out of character, said in the heat of the moment when emotions are high.
It is not an individual’s fault. It is sadly human nature. But as bloggers, myself especially, we should appreciate that we put our words out there for others to read. We are part of a large community that defends itself and delights in supporting and celebrating one another and the work of authors everywhere. We create hashtags to support the cause; not this individual, we. The collective. And it is fun and it is amusing but it is also a sign that we have forgotten to respect another’s opinion. Maybe it feels okay because we only do it in our own groups but to me, this weekend, it wasn’t okay anymore. It isn’t okay for the individual who will see a whole group of bloggers, authors and publishers rise up against them. We have to remember that with a wide audience, our words have much power and can cheer someone on but can also hurt. The reader is typically an individual who may not have another group with the force and spirit of our own to turn to for support.
That said, it is not okay that people, other bloggers, say they have felt bullied for not agreeing with the status quo.
It is not okay that a reader accuses a blogger of being a liar. A ‘paid to praise’ publishers lackey.
It is not okay that bloggers feel bullied by authors if they provide what is deemed to be a critical review.
It is not okay that people say they have been caused great pain by things which have occurred while blogging.
It is not okay that I have upset Anne Cater.
Anne – you may or may not read this but I can only say again that I am sorry you read my blog and felt it was all about you. I should have spoken to you directly on the issue which bothered me and I know that it is only passion and frustration and not malice or bullying which makes you want to defend blogging. I sincerely hope you do not take too long a break from Facebook as the community will miss you. They, and I, truly value your input and all you do for the bookish community. I know you are hurt right now, I do not blame you, but do not give up on it because of me.