Sunday, 17 March 2013

in which I protest against being cyber-bullied

Dear Reader, most of you read my blog through the various groups on Linkedin. I inadvertently got embroiled in a nonsensical debate about 'what we should post onto such public forums. The crusader for propah posts was a lady sitting continents away who pointed out that since she was in the 'Business' of writing, she condescendingly pointed out... 

"This is not the place to recycle blog posts or other communications that are more suited to Facebook or a "witty conversation" Website. Unless your "experiences" have to do with the business of writing, post them on a more appropriate forum. 

The only comment you got on this post was a negative one. That should be a BIG CLUE to you that your audience is not here. Common sense and good marketing skills would seem to dictate that if you want folks to read what you write, go where your audience is. Otherwise you will continue to be ignored. "

Needless to say, the above comment provoked others to speak out in my defence. They assured me that I was not a complete non-entity and that I should post what I wished to. This debate has given rise to a really interesting question...Is freedom of speech and expression in this age of communication a Utopian concept. 

I know that there will always be those who dislike my written works and strongly disagree with my point of view. However, I have deep reservations against those who practice a form of Cyber- Bullying, for example posting rude comments, treating public forums as arenas to humiliate complete strangers continents away, trying to establish hegemony over these public forums, becoming self-appointed arbitrators of content etc.

Bullying in any form is inappropriate and disturbing and I refuse to be cowed down into not exercising this hard won freedom of speech and expression, which in my opinion is a basic human right. 

Writing for me is not a 'Business', the power to write is actually not a luxury than many in my country have, as illiteracy is unfortunately still rampant. Therefore, I feel incredibly privileged to be able to communicate through the written word. Art in any form should be for a purpose, even if it is to make people laugh through a display of wit. Thus the art of the written word is definitely not a 'Business' according to me. 

I also believe in civility towards all, even those who are my critics. However, I take umbrage to the use of such a negative comment on a public forum.I have never in anyway tried to give offence and yet, I have been subjected to such vicious statements by someone who doesn't know me at all. I wonder what caused the lady (who I am sure is perfectly amiable) to dislike me so? 

I confess, that as a self obsessed Journalist-writer I feel smug...You may wonder why? well, my professor at university used to like saying that "every 'Writer worth his/ her salt' should be subjected to vicious criticism and unnecessary controversies, it is what makes them realise the incredible power of the written word, after all the pen is mightier than the sword." 

I suppose, now that I have actually become, dare I say, a 'Writer worth my salt' , I'll be spared hate mail? Alas, dear reader, we do not exist is a utopian world and I'll always commit written faux pas due to my unfortunate penchant for the ridiculous and the absurd. 

Thus the tilted view of the entire brouhaha over a random girl's post on a random public forum is ...Does one really have to be proper and follow all the rules as a writer? As an Argumentative Indian, I'd like to say that had Gandhi followed the rules, he would still be a long-dead moderately successful lawyer in South Africa.


  1. Good food for thought before bed time!

    1. M, it is, isn't it? The thing is that all this could have been prevented if she had just ignored my post!

  2. I love your professor's quote. I'll have to remember that. As far as cyber-bullying goes, I haven't worked out a solution for myself. I try to be courteous even when others are rude online, and I do try to follow basic internet etiquette and the guidelines (if any) of the forum. I think we should always call out internet bullying for what it is. Public shaming is never appropriate.

    1. Thanks! She was my English teacher at the Undergrad Level and should have been a pop psychologist. The kind of teacher who changes lives. I do agree with you about good manners. After all civility doesn't cost money does it?

  3. I too love the professor's quote, AND your point about how well-known people achieved their notoriety through pushing against the restrictions of society.
    This is a subject dear to me as I too am a non-conformist; I have no allegiance to race or nationality, believing them to be clothes we dress ourselves in to bolster our identity. Underneath we're all the same, which leads me to the snickety lady on the forum - her comment says a lot more about her insecurities and self-perception than it does about you.
    I had a similar cyber-bullying experience a while ago where the word "rape" was even bandied about by one vicious individual. You can read about it here if you're interested:

    1. Aisha, Thank you! I read your blog and let me say wow! you have addressed this issue in such a mature manner despite being victimized. You also managed to raise some important questions.Kudos :)

  4. Thank you for sharing this. If I may add, I don't see you as a victim. Victims cower, you spoke out. In my opinion that makes you a survivor. As a writer, I've dealt with some of the childish games that people play. Out of habit, when they do, I pity their hatefulness and fear.

    Since this is the cyber-world, we are subject to the same personality conflicts that we deal with in everyday life. However, many seem to think that it's okay to say things that they wouldn't ordinarily from behind a screen.
    To cower from behind a screen and attack someone's work is both asinine and childish.In general, it says more about that person than the person that the attack is aimed at. It is a sign of deep seated terrifying fear without a sense of purpose or direction.

    What amazes me the most, is that they took time from their life, that they'll never get back, to read something they totally hated? Might I suggest a different way to see/look at the matter? Either you're work is top notch or they are in awe of your ability so much that it literally compelled them to regress to toddler-hood. No one flocks to the something they think is really worthless, but they might to be in the presence of greatness.