Disclaimer: Before I get started, I needed you to know that this is not going to be a positive or happy post. I am feeling in quite the negative head space right now as I write this, but it is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for some time now. Before you judge me, or anyone else for that matter, I want you to think outside of your own experiences and keep an open mind. Realize that not everyone deals with situations the same way you do, or feels the same way you do when drama should occur. This is MY story and MY feelings, and they are not representative of anyone else’s, except for those that may have commiserated with me over this in the past couple of months. But even they don’t feel one hundred percent the same way I do. We are all different people, and no one is the same, and this is what makes us special and individuals.
I’ve been a member of the bookish community for over five years. I started on Goodreads, before starting up this blog in March of 2011. I blogged by myself for a long time, and then I brought Lyn onboard in 2013. She has been with me ever since. At one point we gained another co-blogger who is no longer with us, then it was back to the two of us, then we added Pixie, and finally Maryam. The point of all this is, Great Imaginations has gone through many incarnations, and I’ve been on social media through it all. The bookish community has continued to grow and get larger, and as a result, there are many more voices, and it’s easy for yours to get lost. This is something I am dealing with right now, but that is a different post for another day. What I want to know is:
What the hell are we doing to each other?
I don’t remember when it started exactly, or how, or why, but people on social media are angry now. SO angry. And it shows in the way we are treating each other. I’m not going to name any names, but there are toxic but influential people (mostly on Twitter), that seem to be running the show, but talking down to anyone who disagrees, and all of their followers seem to just follow suit and accept this behavior as okay. I don’t care WHAT your platform is and how important it is (in this case v. important), but you do not treat people like they are garbage that you scrape off your shoe. Especially when you are an author and you are punching downward. Were you raised in a barn?
Okay, but this is not the only thing wrong with social media these days.
It’s toxic. So toxic. On most days, I log in to Twitter, only to see someone trashing someone else, and I log right back out. Either that, or my mouth drops open in shock. I am just disgusted by how people are treating each other these days, and the internet has given people a free license to say whatever the hell they want with very little repercussions.
There was a situation a couple weeks ago…
Drama in the bookish community about whether or not GoFundMe was the proper place for a blogger to raise money for a trip to BEA. The blogger in question was–and is–an important blogger, because they specialize in GLBTQIA books, and work very hard at making people see how important diverse books are. They are doing very important work, and I am thrilled they got to attend BEA. Back to the drama though. It spiraled out of control, with the bloggers that were upset about raising money for BEA through GoFundMe getting attacked for being transphobic, bullying, and against diversity, when nothing could be further from the truth. Leading the charge against these bloggers, one a very dear friend of mine, were some very loud and important voices in our community, some bloggers, but mostly authors. And I’m not saying that none of them were respectful, but the majority were not, and a couple were downright NASTY, calling one of the bloggers a “garbage person.”
Serial killers and rapists are garbage people. MRAs are garbage people. I’m pretty sure none of us are, though.
I’ve since had time to think about my stance during this drama, and I’ve realized that I was wrong. I can explain why I felt the way I originally did, but it wouldn’t do any good, and it’s kind of beyond what I am getting at anyway. Just realize that I am sorry for being against raising money this way, people can use GoFundMe for whatever they want, and anyone can donate to any cause they wish. There have been some REALLY stupid campaigns before and those were funded, so why shouldn’t someone be able to fund their BEA trip this way, especially when they are doing it on a very important platform?
Back to the issue at hand though, it is not okay to yell at people and belittle them in this manner. That author should be ashamed of herself. The people that jumped at the chance to pile on should be ashamed as well. The bottom line is this: none of us really know each other. So to treat someone you don’t know like that…a stranger that you would NOT say that to on the street…just where do you get off exactly?
I’ll tell you how I was raised. I’ve been wrong plenty of times, and so have my friends, but you know what we do? We talk it out. We try to get the person that disagrees to see our side and why we feel the way we do. We listen to each other and work out our issues. If all else fails, we agree to disagree. We don’t spread nasty shit about each other on Twitter and in DMs, and then unfollow them for feeling differently. Because I took the unpopular side, the side I believe was wrong (but people make mistakes, right?), I lost friends that day. People that I respected, loved, and really valued. Rather than try to talk to me about it, they showed me just how little my friendship mattered to them.
Edited to add: Now that BEA is over, there is drama over book hauls again. This happens EVERY year, and there are assholes on both sides of the issue. It generally culminates in bloggers and librarians feeling angry and resentful because ALA is coming soon, and bloggers are allowed into ALA if they pay a fee, but bloggers are upset because they feel unwelcome and unwanted, and mad they are all painted with the same brush. (It sucks–it really does.) But guys, empathy for each other, okay? We all love books. ALA obviously wants the public there, but if you decide to go and are not a librarian, BE respectful. Take only what you plan to read and review. And defer to librarians. This is not hard. But there are always a few bad apples at BEA or ALA to ruin it for everyone when most people are NOT like that. I just really want this anger towards each other to stop, in all facets of publishing. WE ALL LOVE BOOKS. We have something in common, so why can’t we find common ground?
I’m really sad about it.
That’s why I wrote this post. Maybe I thought I was closer to these bloggers than I actually was, and that was my mistake. But I can’t pretend I am okay with how we are treating each other, when I am not. I used this most recent drama as an example, but there have been so many other situations where the same thing happened. Anger. Pile-ons. People shouting into a void, acting like their opinion is the only one that matters, and shutting down anyone who tries to say otherwise. We are all people who care about books, and in most cases, each other. It’s time we start talking to each other about the issues that matter to each of us. We need to stop judging what we don’t know. I have no idea what the majority of these awesome people do when they are not on Twitter or Instagram. I don’t know you that well, and you don’t know me. But I can assure you that most of us want to help make publishing and bookish Twitter, book blogs, Booktube, and Instagram the best they can be.
I don’t want it to be an ugly place anymore.
I remember when we used to be open and welcoming to each other. These days I fear opening my mouth because I don’t want to have someone jumping down my throat. I’m afraid to speak up or share my opinion. I admit it. It’s why I haven’t been blogging much. I haven’t wanted to because I don’t feel all that welcome anymore. Social media feels really toxic these days, and I am almost positive it’s damaging my mental health. And yet I know it’s a wonderful tool for change, and it has done so many wonderful things so far, when we can get together and make something amazing happen. But why is it such a nasty place sometimes? And why do people think they can say whatever hurtful thing they want without thinking for a second what the person they are belittling is feeling? Where did the empathy go?
How do we make it stop?