Wanderers, as much as fandom is an escape from reality, a safe haven for our creative urges, sometimes less…welcome behaviours slip in. I am, of course, talking about bullying.
Bullying is a serious matter, whether it be in person, online, directed towards a celebrity, a writer, or a fan. It’s a hard subject to talk about; it’s the elephant in the room which everyone is studiously ignoring, but Wanderers, we can’t pretend bullying does not exist in fandom. There are, however, things we can do to combat bullying. First, though, it is key to understand what bullying is and is not.
Bullying is lashing out at those with a different opinion. Bullying is when you force your opinion on others. Bullying is when you harass those who don’t agree. Bullying is when you deliberately direct hateful speech at someone. Bullying is deliberately using triggering hate speech in a public forum.
Bullying is not having an opinion. Bullying is not having a negative opinion. Bullying is not discussing your negative opinion in a non-confrontational manner.
So, Wanderers, what are our tips on dealing with bullying?
- Remember you are not alone. If you’re being bullied it can be the loneliest and saddest time of your life, but you are never alone. There will always be someone who will listen with a sympathetic ear, who will offer their support and love to get you through. You do not deserve it. No one deserves it. Don’t internalise any hatred aimed at you, and do not allow yourself to feel isolated in it.
- Politely but firmly express disagreement and disengage from the conversation. If someone is harassing you about an opinion online directly, don’t be afraid to disengage. Saying something along the lines of ‘I respectfully disagree. Can you please take this conversation elsewhere?’ is a good starter, but if they persist then it’s time to stop responding all together.
- Remember bullies thrive on attention. Depriving them of attention is a sure fire way of getting them off your back. Ignoring, blocking, reporting and unfollowing are good ways of giving them the message that you’ve had enough without actively engaging in their power games.
- Never take things into your own hands. Although it might seem like the best solution at the time, it very rarely is. Even if you manage to get the person to deactivate their account, think about what you just did. You out-bullied them into behaving the way you wanted them to. Let people in authority make the decisions, and by following the four steps outlined below, you should be able to avoid any further problems.
We suggest that any Wanderer dealing with cyberbullying follows these four steps:
1. Document: Take screencaps of aggressive and/or hateful messages or posts. Save them and organise by date, making sure screen names are clear and dates are legible. This prevents the possibility of someone posting things just long enough to rile you, and then removing the post before the site can respond.
2. Unfollow: The unfollow button is your friend. This person is being abusive. You are always better off as far away from them as possible, even if you thought they were your friend.
3. Block: Blocking on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter ensures that the person in question can no longer access your posts, and you won’t be bothered by their attention-seeking behaviours.
4. Report: Cyberbullying is no less of a problem than physical bullying. Take it to the highest point of authority and provide them with the evidence you have accumulated. Allow them to make the decision about whether to deactivate the other person’s account, or to ban them completely. In cases where death threats or threats of violence are made, don’t hesitate to involve the police, especially if the person in question is aware of your location. And no matter what, keep all messages from the site, a copy of your complaint, and all official responses. This allows you to refer back to ticket numbers and past reports if the behaviour continues.
Different social media have specific procedure to follow to report abusive users, and it is important to know how to go about reporting instances of bullying.
- Twitter staff say: “Twitter can only accept reports from the individual directly involved in the abusive situation, or their legal representation. Direct your friend or family member to file a report. We encourage people to file reports of abuse so that we can investigate the situation and take action if necessary.”
- If you are the person being harassed, report an abusive user using Twitter’s system. You are the only person who can do that. By reporting the abuse, you may be able to limit their ability to hurt you and others in the future. If there is a pattern of behaviour, and you’re just one in a list of people who they are harassing, include that in your report for Twitter’s consideration when determining how to deal with the bully.
- If you’re seeing someone else being bullied, encourage them to report the matter. If you can’t (celebrities, for instance), don’t be a bystander. Engaging a bully or hater is typically what they’re looking for: instead, send words of support to the person being harassed.
- If you believe someone is making sock puppet accounts to continue harassment, or to gang up on you and others, include that in your report with a list of the user accounts.
- If a sock puppet account is actively spreading hate and exists just to do so, you can report it as “Spam” on their profile. Drop down the icon next to the Follow button, select “Report @[username] for Spam” and allow the user to stay blocked.
- Tumblr offers many solutions for dealing with situations of harassment and bullying.
- Are you being harassed and bullied directly to your ask box? Hit the X instead of the trashcan on a message. Deleting a message only removes that one instance from your box. Clicking ignore on an ask box message blocks that account and IP address from contacting you again.
- People you ignore won’t be able to see your posts on their dash. You won’t see them in post notes or dashboard notifications. You won’t receive any messages from them again.
- If you see someone harassing others, spamming hate, or filling the tags with bullying behaviour, block them. When you go to block, you will have the opportunity to report them for Spam or Harassment.
- If you need to take more direct action, as in when individuals are reblogging you with hate, or attacking users on tags, go to the Help section of Tumblr. At the bottom of the Help page, click on “Contact Support.” There you will be able to enter a report of the behaviour you’ve observed, attach screencaps, and directly reach the support line. If you’d prefer to do it from your own email program, just drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org with your gathered information or concerns. They recommend emailing from the address associated with your account, in order to expedite processing. This is particularly useful when people are using alternate accounts to bypass the block features, or to continue their behaviour after being reported. Tumblr needs to know when that happens, and will act on it.
- Facebook has a number of methods to report abuse, and resource links for bullying situations.
- To report a timeline, group or page: Click the gear icon on the top right side, and select Report/Block
- To report a post on your timeline: Click the pencil icon in the top right corner of the post, select Report/Mark as Spam and select Report.
- Additionally, whether or not you have an account on Facebook, you can report violations of the Facebook terms.
For Other Message Boards, Communities and Sites:
- Our best recommendation is to immediately check the Terms of Service or Community Guidelines for any other site in which you are approached, bullied or harassed. Typically you will be able to find their rules against harassment, bullying, hate speech, and abuse.
- Find their Help page, contact information, and moderators, if you find yourself being harassed.
Wanderers, I would love to be naïve and say that I hope these tips will never be necessary, but I’m sure we’re all aware of the damage bullying can do, and I sincerely hope these tips will help if you are ever in need of them.
Hannah Carter (really wishes bullying didn’t exist…and apologises for bringing the mood down)