Written by R. M. Mulder and Andrea Emmes
Cyberbulling has recently hit a boiling point in the Indie Author community. On March 17th 2018, a fellow colleague attempted to commit suicide after being urged to do so by 80+ angry Indie authors. She was found unresponsive with a bottle of sleeping pills. The cousin who found her wrote: “I cried like I never cried before, me a grown man openly sobbing and asking for God to not do this, not her, not today maybe not ever.”
An investigation into the matter revealed that the woman who attempted suicide is an Indie cover artist, and there was a dispute regarding the alleged inappropriate use of a stock photo. Regardless of whether her actions were right, wrong or indifferent, bullying and this kind of mob mentality attack should not be tolerated in any form.
Indie Author R. M. Mulder shares his experience:
“The revelation of these atrocious actions has sent shockwaves throughout the Indie community. Little by little, more authors are coming out and describing their similar experiences. In light of this shocking situation, sadly, I [Mulder] can confirm that cyberbullying among authors is extremely real, and that it has even happened to me several times. Many people, especially authors, hide behind the mask of the internet, social media, Facebook/Twitter accounts, etc. Some even adopt pen names to further mask their identity. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, however this practice often leads normal people to abuse power and makes cyberbullying more prevalent.
“During the time that I was a victim of cyberbulling, which was instigated by doing something that I loved both as a consumer and as an author, I endured a lot of abuse, ostracizing, and more. I’ve personally witnessed the extent that cyberbullying can affect a person’s life, confidence, and overall emotional well-being. Since then, I’ve had time to reflect on this extremely painful experience. At this time I wish to express my forgiveness for those that harmed me, both accidentally or malignantly. I’m extremely grateful that I was able to lean on my Faith and in my God. With His strength I was able to move past this, and I’m extremely grateful for the many blessings that are now on the horizon even through the midst of all that I endured.”
Indie Narrator Andrea Emmes shares her experience:
“For me, [Emmes] I have been bullied, threatened and made fun of in person and online over the course of my life – people wanting to beat me up, wish I was dead, called names, etc. and mostly for innocuous reasons like being me being too short, the new kid in school, because I said “Hi” to someone’s boyfriend, due to false rumors, my beliefs, you name it. It can be quite debilitating and cause a lot of anxiety and fear to ever feel comfortable to show my face again, to make another post or especially to speak out. However, cowing down to bullies isn’t the answer. Neither is dropping down to their level. I am grateful that none of the threats I’ve ever received have ever come to fruition, but regardless of the real fear that these kinds of instances cause, my heart is broken not only for their other victims but also for these bullies themselves who feel that the only way they can get attention, feel better about themselves or whatnot is to act out in such a malicious manner. Not every bully is someone who’s actually hurting inside, comes from an abused background, etc. but many lack the ability to feel empathy or honestly take joy in causing harm and fear in others. But I pray for them all anyway. I forgive them anyway, but will not forget. It does not mean that I will allow myself to lay down and play victim for them and I will stand with anyone else who has been bullied, but I also actively work on remembering how I want to be treated, the kind of woman I want to be and remember that humankindness should extend to everyone. It is so easy to allow my emotions to get the better of me and react or speak without thinking and if I’m not careful, I could unwittingly cause harm to others.”
With the mask of Social Media, it is unfortunately much easier for people to troll on unsuspecting victims. Much like playing an avatar in a video game, people can easily become callous of their actions and they often can’t see the severity behind their blind words and hatred. It’s important to note that just because you may not have said those painful words directly to someone’s face doesn’t mean that severe damage wasn’t done. You simply didn’t see the direct result of the harm that it caused the other person.
Sadly, however, not everyone will be able to bounce back as quickly or at all and it’s worrisome that what happened to the poor Cover Artist mentioned at the beginning of this article even happened at all. We tend to forget that real human beings with real baggage, emotions, hardships, etc. are on the other end of a Twitter handle or Facebook profile. As authors, artists, narrators, and other creators who work from home, we usually do so in almost complete solitude. It’s easy to forget that we are sensitive and social creatures who still need to stand together, to be loved and appreciated. And when things go awry or goes wrong, we should still remain conscious of our approach when speaking with one another as we would if we were speaking to them face to face.
Only God knows how many others there are who have similarly suffered in the silence*.
We would like find a way to come together as a community of creative thinkers to work towards a more diverse and inclusive, and mutually respected community where we can have constructive conversations and find workable solutions with the purpose of rising each other up so that each and every one of us can find success as an Indie.
So before you write that post; before you make that comment; or before you submit that review… ask yourselves this one important question: “How would I react if I were the recipient of this message?”
*If you or someone you know has been the victim of cyberbulling and are considering harming yourself or others, know that help is available. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You can reach them by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org