Monday, February 18, 2013

Something funny happened on the way to the forum...

Okay, well, I was going to say it wasn't actually a forum, but, technically, it is. Well, it's supposed to be, because the definition of forum includes "place for open discussion" (stress is mine), but this was clearly not such a place. It was just supposed to be.
And what happened definitely wasn't funny. Except, well, it kind of is; it just also made me really angry. Who says there's not humor in anger?

Let me explain. All back story is so that you will understand the surrealism of the actual event.

Several months ago, I was invited to join an authors' group on facebook. Against my will. Let me re-phrase that: I was added to an authors' group after I told the person that added me that I did not want him to. The group was the Author's Think Tank. I didn't want to be added, because he just wanted me in there so that he could flame me as he had already done in that forum once before and on his page once before and who knows where else. All of this was over a bad review. This incident where he added me was many, many weeks after the initial review, but I had posted about reviews, and, for whatever reason, he took my post about my view on reviews as a personal attack and added me to the authors' group so that I could see the "discussion" that was going on about reviews.

Mostly, that discussion included a lot of people calling me names, the most popular of which was "douche bag," because only a douche bag would leave someone a bad review. Or something like that. [If you want to go back and read the posts about reviews, they are here and here.] I want to point out that at no time during this thread of calling me names did anyone ever say anything about it. No said that the Think Tank was not a place for being negative; no told anyone to stop behaving in the manner they were behaving; no one took the thread down. It was, you know, "all good." And, honestly, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I have mine regarding the leaving of reviews, and that's that being honest about the review is the way to go. [But, then, really, if you want to know more, you should go back and read those two posts.]

Just to be clear, I did not get involved in that "discussion." In fact, I didn't say anything at all in there for a couple of weeks. I almost removed myself from the group, but I didn't. I mean, it was a group of 500 other authors, so I figured it might be worthwhile to stay. It really wasn't, not for me. Mostly, it was a bunch of people asking things like, "What's the difference between 'lay' and 'lie'? I can't figure it out," and watching people argue over it and coming to no conclusion. That's why you look things up.

Needless to say, I didn't say a whole lot in the group other than, occasionally, answering someone's question about something or pointing them at a source if no one else had responded. That and posting links to what I felt were applicable blog posts and links for when my Shadow Spinner pieces were available. In that sense, I did get a benefit from being in the group, because I know there were some people downloading my pieces.

All of that changed last week when I was unceremoniously kicked out of the group. Not just kicked out but not even notified. I just hopped onto facebook, and the link to the group was missing from my groups. I thought it was a facebook problem. At first. But, wait! Let's go back...

Here's what happened:
Someone posted something about how Stephanie Meyer had written Twilight with a screaming toddler in her lap while watching Barney, so, maybe, that was the way to go, because look at how awesome Twilight is. [I'm paraphrasing, but that is the gist of what she posted.]

I couldn't resist, so I responded with, "I don't know. I think Twilight screams Barney."
1. It was a joke.
2. I haven't read Twilight (and I don't intend to), so it was just a joke.
3. People thought it was funny and said things like, "I like Twilight, but I thought the Barney comment was funny."
4. I stated after several other comments that the comment had been meant just to be funny.

But here's where the problem started, I guess:
Some other guy stated that he didn't like Twilight and gave legitimate reasons as to why he does not.
[I want to add that this is what it means to be a forum: having an open discussion about something.]
A can of worms ensued and there was a huge back and forth between this guy and, well, I lost count, a lot of women about the merits of Twilight. Evidently, he was a bad person for saying he didn't like Twilight.

He and I were kicked out of the group for being "negative," and the thread was taken down. Neither of us was informed of what was going on. In fact, as I said, I thought there was some problem with facebook for about half a day, then I asked in another group that has some overlapping members if anyone knew what was wrong with the Think Tank. It was fine for everyone else, and that's when I started asking around about what was going on.

Finally, there was an admission that I had been kicked out of the group, but the admins wouldn't say why. And, then, finally, someone who is friends with one of the admins was able to find out that it was because I was being "negative" and that <other guy> had also been kicked out for the same reason. So much for the idea of an open forum. Instead, what we have is a group of Meyer fascists where it's okay to call someone that's basically in the room lots of degrading and mean names, but it's not okay to say, "I don't like Twilight."

I find the whole thing just wrong. The whole situation makes me angry, because it is just wrong. It's screwed up. And the thing that angers me most is that everyone else was just okay with it. Not that it was advertised, but there was a thread brought up about it in the group as one person was trying to find out what happened. The response was definitely a "ah, well, tough luck for you" response. If I had been in the group and this had happened to someone else, I would have raised all kinds of hell over it and probably been kicked out to. BECAUSE IT'S WRONG BEHAVIOR. If one of my kids had behaved like this, there would be consequences and forced apologies, long discussions and reparations. Seriously, I'm not entitled to my own opinion? (Although it's perfectly okay for me to call someone IN THE GROUP a douche bag.)

And, as Bryan from A Beer for the Shower said to me about all of this, "If they can't take someone not liking their favorite book, imagine how they'll take it when they get a bad review for one of their own works." [paraphrase] No kidding.

Which brings us to our two hands:
On the one hand, I'm not upset about not being in a group that's run like this. If I had known, I wouldn't have participated in their little Meyercult to begin with. I would have left all on my own if this had happened to someone else and nothing was done about it.
On the other hand, it cuts off an avenue I had been using to promote my work, especially my Shadow Spinner serialization. Probably, it won't have any discernible impact, but I won't really know for a while. That part kind of sucks.

But the main thing about all of this is that the behavior is too indicative of a screwed up cultural mind set we have right now. A mind set that says it's not okay to express any opinion that says "I don't like that" or "That's not good." A mind set that says that is okay to actually be mean to someone that says something isn't good, but that's the only time it's okay to be "negative," because, for some screwed up reason, that's not being negative. And I'm not saying we should go out of our way to leave bad reviews or anything, but I do believe we shouldn't say something is great or awesome or whatever if it's not true, and I do think it ought to be okay to say "I don't like that" if we don't, especially if we actually have reasons for why we don't like it. And <other guy> had solid reasons why he doesn't like Twilight.

So that's my rant. I see the funny in it, but I'm too busy being outraged to laugh.


  1. Hurray for a shout out!

    I already said my piece, but my favorite part is when I say I don't like something (not even just books) to someone who loves it, and they respond with, "You're just not being open minded."

    Oh no, I was being open minded. I actually read Twilight. I can't stand it. Bad writing, a cliched story, and a completely dependent heroine has nothing to do with me being "narrow minded." To me, it's a bad book.

    Also, there's only one Meyercult around here. The Brandon Meyerscult. Yeah, I went there.

  2. Reminds me of the fifth grade. Most definitely.

  3. I agree with T. Drecker. Are these people still in middle school? It takes maturity to truly embrace and accept opinions different from our own. Sometimes I should take my own advice. Sounds purty good.

  4. I'm not surprised that this happened. I think people tend to vacillate from being super nice on the internet to being super mean... that middle ground just kind of disappears. Like politics.

    I just hope it's over. I'm almost surprised that you haven't had a bunch of retaliatory 'reviews' as a response. People can get petty in a hurry, really.

    Maybe you can start a 'This other group sucks' group and include everyone from the previous group, then tell your story, then start banning anyone who disagrees... oh wait, that, there might be some irony at play in that scenario.

    Regardless, I'm angry with you. They're hypocritical. No doubt.

  5. Big surprise I'm sure but I've been kicked out of numerous online groups. One of them even called my workplace because they were pissed I got around their ban.

    Anyway, honesty's a double-edged sword. Don't be honest reviewing your friends's books unless you want them to be honest in reviewing yours.

  6. Welcome to the world of the online forum, run by people who don't understand the word "forum".

    Bottom line: people are stinky. Keep your distance.

  7. I defend the right for you to have an opinion so long as it agrees with mine.


  8. Reminds me of people who scream for others to be open-minded - but just so long as your open-minded opinion is the same as theirs.

  9. Authors can be very difficult people to get along with. They're all egomaniacs.

  10. I was thinking along the same lines as Rusty only without they suck part in it. This could be an opportunity to start a group that is truly open-minded, moderated and won't tolerate people being trashed like you were.

  11. ABftS: Yeah, I kind of hate that whole thing about not liking things because you're not "open minded." Being open minded means I'm okay with you liking it even when I don't.

    LOL about Cult Brandon.

    HM C: That, actually, is about how I felt about it despite all the words I ended up saying.

    T.: Yeah, I can definitely see that. "You're not my friend anymore!" sheesh

    JKIR,F!: You don't even have to embrace them, just be content to live alongside them.

    Rusty: What surprises me most is that I didn't realize that the Twilight comment is the reason I was kicked. Seriously, I couldn't think of any reason that could have prompted it and my eyes popped out of my head when I was told that was the reason. Seriously? The Twilight joke did it?

    PT: This wasn't even about the review (and it wasn't a friend, just someone that requested a review); I was just using that as an example to show the contrast in behavior.

    Sarah: Maybe this is why I have tended to stay out of forums during my Internet career.

    Jo: Um... I had a smartass response to this earlier, but, now that I've gotten to making responses, I've forgotten what it was.

    Alex: Yep. There's a big problem with that at my kids' school, but that's something for another time.

    Michael: Now I have that Legomaniac thing running in my head.

    Elsie: That would be great except that I wouldn't actually do anything to support a group, and it would fail utterly. I just don't have that kind of motivation, right now.


  12. When we say we don't like something and try to explain it to someone who does like something, it seems they often end up taking it as a personal assault on their judgement/taste. In my opinion, it's not worth the argument. People like/don't like what they want. But for some reason it gets very personal in cases like Twilight because the readers LOVE it so much on an emotional level. It's like you tossed their dog on the highway or something if you say you don't like it.

    Sorry you got swept up into a Meyerstorm. And, also, I hardly ever know the difference between lay and lie. I figure it's fifty/fifty on the usage. :PP

  13. Ditto what L.G. said about the personal offense to you not liking something they lovelovelove.

    And Twilight is a very emotional cauldron of the lovers and the love-to-haters. I'd try to compare it to something else, but I can't think of anything. Twilight is the go-to example of that kind of emotional maelstrom.

    You could compare it to the 50 Shades mania, but isn't that sort of just the same thing, really?

    Don't worry about it. People can be contradictory and dumb.

  14. L.G.: Mostly, people don't lie when they're laying; they only lie when they're lying. heh
    It's not a foolproof way of keeping them apart, but it helps.

    I just don't get the emotional attachment to Twilight. I mean, I love Star Wars, but I've never been as rabid as these SAHMs are about their Twihardedness.

    Callie: Can be? How about we just say "people are dumb." That's kind of my fallback position. Wizard's First Rule and all of that.

  15. It does suck that you lose a link to promoting your work, but from what you've described it sounds like the dregs of the internet. Online, it's so easy to claim to be open but really have the subtext of "as long as you agree with me".

    I hope you find a newer, better group.

  16. I stay away from internet forums -- cos I've gone through similar stuff. Now I limit myself to offline workshops. hope this blows over soon.

  17. I missed this yesterday (and Monday, as I just realized it's Wednesday.)

    I would say it sucks that this happened, except that I get the feeling you don't really mind, and I wouldn't really mind, either.

    What's weird, I think, is not so much that many people think you can't express a negative opinion; it's more "you are SO WRONG if you disagree with me" about ANYTHING. Not just "hey, you're wrong, sucks to be you" but "I AM GOING TO KICK YOU OUT OF THE GROUP AND NEVER TALK TO YOU AGAIN."

    I get that, sort of, when it is something important. When I went on my crusade to stop Tom Coburn & Co. from misappropriating autism research money for their own pals, I felt like I needed to amp up the rhetoric and attack them, but,then, they were trying to monkey with scientific funds so that they could steer them to their own personal campaign contributors, and openly refused to talk to me about it when I called.

    That's another story. The idea, though, that simply disagreeing makes you a horrible person -- especially over the merits of "Twilight" -- is not surprising but it is dismaying.

    I think the thing to remember is that the most vocal of people are the only ones we hear from. People who REALLY LOVE Twilight tend to cram forums (fora?) while people who really love moderation in opinions tend to not.

    You know what this reminded me of, though? That episode of Parks & Rec where the guy insisted that Twilight be put into a Pawnee time capsule. If you haven't seen it, maybe check it out.

    Your Barney comment, though, was funny. You should be on Twitter. You can get away with stuff like that, there.

  18. Jeanne: Well, I wasn't looking for that group, so it's not like I'm go out looking for something to replace them with.

    Damyanti: As far as I'm concerned, it is over. I just feel bad for whomever is the next victim.

    Briane: I saw that episode. It was hilarious. Of course, Parks & Rec was just an awesome show.

    I'm still not ready for twitter. Maybe someday.

  19. I learned while being a moderator and then admin of an online forum for moms that people can be exceptionally nasty online. They don't have to face anyone, so they're free to be jerks. Not only that, but their own behavior is perfectly acceptable, no matter what they do. I spent years of misery dealing with drama, bad behavior, paranoid accusations, "feather ruffling," and just sheer nastiness. It's sad, really, but it is what it is. The amount of time I wasted glued to the computer, blood pressure up, because I was supposed to be moderating on a board where the shit hit the fan if removing anyone for personal attacks was ever brought up--I could have written several novels in that time. Forums suck, because people suck.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  20. Shannon: For moms, huh? Sounds familiar.
    People do suck.