I just received this notice from WordPress:
This makes me smile, for just this morning, while strolling through the garden, I began composing my three-year blogaversary post. I thought the blogaversary was a few days away and that I was early–but here it is, today!
While I was thinking of what I wanted to comment on about this past year, my heart kept turning towards some of the challenging points of my three-year involvement with SimLit blogging. Some of my friends and several acquaintances have been targets of cyber bullying through their blogging and involvement with the SimLit community. I’ve experienced some meanness, too. When this happens, we often think, “Why stay with this? Why not quit?” And, indeed, sometimes, withdrawing for a while, to heal, rebuild confidence, and regain strength is the best strategy.
Over the past three years, each time I’ve considered whether I wanted to stay or withdraw, I’ve chosen to stay. This creative outlet gives me something that adds to my life, and I love the SimLit community.
During my first six months of blogging and being part of the SimLit community, I felt I’d found a niche. The community was small, friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse, and a little bit quirky. It seemed possible to read and keep up with all the new TS4 stories, and almost possible to get to know all the writers. We had fun, goofy, and inspiring collabs; we celebrated each other’s legacy births and weddings, and mourned the passings of each other’s founders, heirs, spouses, and spares. I was full of joy for nearly all of those six months: I’d found my place online.
During the second six months, I experienced a painful situation common to many bloggers and collaborators. I had a public falling-out with a close friend and collaborator that ended in a personal attack made in the comments on my blog. It was the result of a misunderstanding, and looking back, I wish I’d been able to handle the situation with more grace and skill. I don’t regret the post I made that brought on the attack, for I was clarifying misinformation about me, my beliefs and attitudes, and my approaches to game-play that had been publicly posted. It’s within our rights to clarify misinformation that’s posted about us. I regret my lack of skill in handling the situation: Causing pain to someone I love and admire is deeply regrettable, as is the loss of a friendship–or several.
My own pain surrounding this event was sharp and raw around the time of the first Blogaversary celebration, during which we acknowledged many of the one-year-old SimLit blogs. I had come close to cancelling the event, and I seriously considered quitting altogether. I’m glad we held the celebration: I look back fondly on our enthusiasm as readers and writers. I’m glad I stuck with blogging. It was during my second year of blogging that I finished Goofy Love and started many other stories which have been gratifying to me.
During my second year of blogging, I learned cyber bullying happens in the Simming community. BullyOnline.org offers this definition of cyber bullying:
Cyber bullying is the misuse of communication technology (email, SMS texts, social networks, Internet forums etc) for conducting campaigns of hatred. The impersonality and distance between bully and target makes such technology an effective means to cause conflict and hurt.
One of my good friends has been the target of bullying through a Sims site that promotes these types of “campaigns of hatred.” I was shocked to discover this site existed and dismayed to see the extent of harm that it causes. Each week, people are torn down by the hateful comments posted there.
What happened to that “friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse” community I fell in love with during my first six months of blogging? Could that still exist alongside a community that systematically tears down other people?
And should I stay involved with a community that had these corners in it? Once again, I considered quitting.
Of course, even though I was just discovering this subterranean corner, it didn’t mean that it was new. It had been going on for nearly a decade and had been just as violent during the six months I thought the community was bliss.
During my third year of blogging, I learned that derogatory comments had been made toward me in the cyber bullying corner. It explained a lot: the shifts in attitude, the cold-shoulders, the unaccounted for spikes in readership on a few blog posts, as well as the dropping-off of readers. Sensitive people can pick up when feelings towards them change, even when there is no evidence at hand for what’s causing this. As I discovered these posts and comments about me, I noticed that they correlated with the times when I noticed these changes in attitude.
Online gossip and hate cause ripples, even when the targets aren’t aware that the comments have been made.
I didn’t feel safe. When I talk with others who’ve experienced these situations, that’s what they say, too: “I don’t feel safe.”
It makes us question why we stay involved. Even though I was able to think through the comments made about me and regain some confidence and resilience, I still questioned being involved with a community where this type of behavior happened.
I stay because I’m a Kindness Warrior. I fully believe that kindness is stronger than hate. I know that stories about love, mindfulness, strength, resilience, compassion, and bravery make a difference.
I’m committed to keeping active in the official EA Sims Forums, to welcome newcomers, to encourage discouraged writers, to create and participate in joyful collaborations, and to create corners in the community that are safer, more accepting, more supportive, more welcoming, and that are brave enough to confront our behaviors, attitudes, and practices that aren’t safe, accepting, supportive, or welcoming.
We don’t have to give in to hate or fear. We do need to take care of ourselves, maintain our boundaries, and to surround ourselves with supportive, encouraging, loving people.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing about this during my three-year blogaversary: It’s not exactly a celebratory post. It is a resolution. It’s a resolution not to be blind about the hurtful things that happen. It’s a resolution to speak against bullying. It’s a resolution not to believe lies against others. It’s a resolution to have your back.
If you’ve been a target of cyberbullying in the SimLit community, I’m here to offer you support. I’ll believe you, not the lies told against you. You’re not alone. Take the time you need to heal, regain your confidence and your strength, and when you’re ready to come back, I’m here to welcome you.
I hope other Kindness Warriors will join me. It’s our community: Let’s keep it a safe haven for diverse, lovely, quirky, creative people.
We are so much stronger than hate.
If you have experienced cyber bullying, please tell someone you trust. You need support. You might also find these tips helpful:
- How to Heal After a Cyber Bullying Experience (from WikiHow)
- Ten Tips for Healing after a Cyberbully Attack (from the Christa McAuliffe School for Arts and Sciences)
- Dealing with Cyberbullying: Online and Dangerous (from psychcentral – written for parents of teens who’ve experienced cyberbullying, this contains useful information for adults, too.)