Fear, Hurt, and Social Media ~ Sunday Spotlight by PizzyGirl


Fear, Hurt, and Social Media:

Hi, my name is Katie and I am afraid – I am hurting – I am afraid to tell you why I am hurting. But I will try. I will try to explain myself, as best as I can and I will fail. I will inevitably accomplish exactly what I am trying to avoid. But I will still try.

This past weekend was my birthday. I received a great outpouring of love and well wishes, and I am embarrassed that I did not respond to the majority of those posts. But I could not, because I spent my birthday battling a horrible bout of depression that left me sick to my stomach. Why? Because I made the mistake of reading comments on a post I found thought provoking even in its poor word choice and harsh tone.

Authors I had once loved and respected, readers I thought were friendly and inclusive, took to social media to bully and attack an anonymous individual over a poorly worded cry for understanding. I understand that the post was very accusatory and full of generalizations. But to me it was obvious that this man had been hurt and wanted to vent his frustrations. However, instead of reaching out and asking why he felt this way – authors and readers alike attacked his words, his tone, and his anonymity. If I were anon, I would have been afraid to post anything ever again – using my real or pen name – because people were calling for his head. Why would he ever use his real name if this is the way he will be treated?

Now, those who commented on that post, or who wrote subsequent posts may not have intended to come across as hateful and rude, but that is how it felt to me. They may have only intended to defend themselves and express their hurt, but the way they chose to do that only exacerbated the problem. They blasted a poor soul for the same things – they were now doing to him. It hurt me and made me want to run from a community I had, up until this point, found accepting and loving.

I was so hurt to see other people attacking some of the points that I found most interesting about Anon’s discourse. I wanted to be able to point out the things in Anon’s post that, while worded harshly, made me stop and think. Things I agreed with because I had noticed some of those same things and they made me uncomfortable too. Things in that post that pointed to Anon’s hurt – his lashing out may have been masking something deeper. I wanted to discuss the comments that also made me stop and think. Those comments were worded harshly, but also spoke to a different hurt and pain.  Some comments I agreed with partially, I would love to have asked for clarification and kicked off a conversation that may have been enlightening. I would have loved to have been able to comment on those remarks that left me appalled and flabbergasted in their hate and blatant disregard for any type of open dialogue, or communication.

Sadly, I didn’t because I was afraid that the same people who I have supported and whose work I have purchased would have crucified me for daring to have an opposing view point. I was afraid that they would latch onto my middle class, cisgender white female status and tell me I had no right to my opinion. I was afraid that someone would challenge me because I could not (or would not) show them evidence and statistics, or any other research, as to why I feel the way I do, as if I need to have my feelings supported by numbers or tweets for them to be considered valid.

I was afraid that people would pick apart my grammar and use it as another way to invalidate my thoughts. That people I have come to respect would block and/or report me because my post may have been misinterpreted, and instead of having a clarifying conversation, they would run roughshod over me in their effort to disprove my words.

I was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want it to be my turn to be attacked, belittled and bullied into guilt for feeling as I do. I have made that mistake in the past and it was not pleasant. And I watched it happen again this time when several well intentioned gay men tried to explain their reactions to the post and the subsequent comments.

So when Anon’s post once again lead to outrage and hatred, I took a step back from social media and realized that I don’t know if I want to come back into this community that professes to love and accept all – accept, until someone says something they disagree with.

Hi, my name is Katie and I am hurt – I am now afraid to be a part of a once beloved social media community. And I am afraid that no matter how many thoughtful or loving comments this post may receive, some will still feel the need to invalidate my feelings because maybe – just maybe – I touched on something that hurt them, or made them see something in themselves that isn’t pretty. Now, I am afraid that the instinct, to deny, vehemently and angrily, the possibility that anyone with a different opinion may have a valid point, will prevail – instead of opening up a line of thoughtful conversation.

So where does that leave me and those like me? What do we do when a few have ruined it for the many by leaving community members hurt and afraid to speak their minds?

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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22 thoughts on “Fear, Hurt, and Social Media ~ Sunday Spotlight by PizzyGirl

  1. Great post. And I can’t tell you where this whole debacle leaves you, but I know where it leaves me: sitting on my hands and staying out of it. I won’t step away from social media because I have too many friends I can only keep in touch with that way. But I can stay out of the endless succession of conflicts. I’ll scroll past, maybe shed a few tears in private, but I won’t get involved. It’s just not worth it.

    • Well,actually it’s worth it…It’s not a small thing we’re talking about here. One of things that people love the most about this genre is ease with which you can socialize with authors (and the post clearly says they are involved too) and the fact that this is still a relatively small community,the everyone-knows-everyone type,so it gives you a sense of belonging,which much bigger MF can’t give you (or at least not in that magnitude). But,I get where you’re coming from. I don’t engage either in online discussions,but not because it’s not worth it.

      • I agree, I think it is worth it to speak up. Which is why i wrote this post. I knew some people would not agree but I felt strongly enough that there were other folks out there(even if it is only one other person) who share my mentality and needed to be represented.

    • M/M authors have been attacked by mainstream authors, gay authors and different gay organizations so I think the reaction to more criticism is to defend. The anon person certainly has a right to his/her opinion but I think it is too soon for M/M folks to say thanks for the criticism we will take it under advisement.

    • I’ve spent so long staying out of it that I couldn’t keep quiet anymore. I will also not step away from Facebook or social media as a whole, but I will be taking a look at who I interact with and how they interact with others. This world is already so filled with hate, I will control what i see where I can and move forward. Thank you for your comment!

  2. It would help if you’ve given us a link to that post,because this way there’s just not enough info on which any kind of opinion may be based.

    BUT,I have an idea of what and whom you’re talking about,and all I can do is sympathize with you and agree with everything you said especially with this part:

    “I have made that mistake in the past and it was not pleasant. And I watched it happen again this time when several well intentioned gay men tried to explain their reactions to the post and the subsequent comments.

    So when Anon’s post once again lead to outrage and hatred, I took a step back from social media and realized that I don’t know if I want to come back into this community that professes to love and accept all – accept, until someone says something they disagree with.”

    I personally have enough things in private life to keep my mind occupied 24/7 for me to engage in online discussions that will only lead to me being basically crucified. And now I stay away from those. But I’m sad that it has come to that – for you to not be the target of few individuals with apparently too much time and too many unresolved frustrations (and armed with plenty of sarcasm and other hurtful tools),you must not speak your mind freely – you have to diligently agree,and if you,God forbid,disagree with them,keep quiet about it.

    Maybe I’m guessing wrong, but even if that’s the case…well,I’m still feeling your hurt. And to answer your question – I have no idea where does that leave this community. I really don’t. I can only speak from my POV – sometimes my fingers are itching to engage and disagree,because I don’t really know those people,and I don’t care what they think of me,but even if I would accomplish something,it will still take a toll on me,and I just don’t have anymore nerves to spare. I need those for real life.

    P.S. It would still be nice if you shared the link to the post that initiated this one.

    • Thank you for this comment. You understood me correctly and I am sorry that you do. To know you’ve felt the same is not a good thing.

  3. I would like to read poor “anon’s” post. Only once in my life have I ever posted anything anonymously, and that, too, came from a place of fear. Fortunately, I did not receive a negative response.

    We as writers need to accept the fact that we will be criticized, sometimes harshly, by people who disagree with us, or simply need to vent their own unhappiness on us.

    As a community, we need to support each other, but we also need to be strong enough to brave storms, and look to our friends to give us that strength.

  4. I wonder if this doesn’t have as much to do with our expectations of what “community” is supposed to be as it does with the content of the exchange I think you’re referring to.

    “Our” community is not homogeneous, and intense disagreements must inevitably arise. Belonging to a community does not guarantee emotional safety in it, although I would love it if one of the rules of our community was respectful discourse. But it’s not, at least in my experience at present.

    I’ve been on both sides of this experience. I’ve been angry and said so (and I strongly believe it’s healthy to be able to say,”I’m angry” or “I’m hurt” or “I’m afraid” and what that’s about), and I’ve been accused of all kinds of evil, from condoning sexual abuse of children to literary arrogance to misogyny.

    I also believe that the learning from these experiences — certainly for me, at least — is to be more realistic about my expectations, and to develop the necessary emotional resilience to navigate overheated arguments and attacks without taking them so personally that I’m wounded.

    Our community is too diverse in personalities and literary tastes to ever maintain external harmony. If I expect to be bathed in happy harmony all the time, I will be sadly disappointed. All I can do is work toward refining my ability to participate in the community with honesty, thoughtfulness and respect. I intend to do that.

    • “although I would love it if one of the rules of our community was respectful discourse. But it’s not, at least in my experience at present.”

      Why can we not expect one of the rules to be respectful discourse? Why should we allow the norm to be criticism and attacks?

      I think this world takes all kinds to make things work, and while I applaud you for your ability to change your ways to fit into the mold this community is setting, I am not able to do so. I wish I had that ability.

      • Maybe it’s my advanced age, but I know all too well there is no way to enforce civility, especially when people who are hurting lash out at others and others react in kind. I am powerless over the behavior other people, essentially. All I can do is work on my own behavior.

        A ground rule that people use “I” statements to own their own experience without blaming others for it would be huge progress, but that in itself takes a significant level of consensus — a consensus that doesn’t exist in many online conversations.

        • very true. I guess I was just thinking more along the lines that it is still reasonable to set the expectation of respect and civility.

          To actually expect it and have people treat others as they would be treated, is as you say, a whole different thing.

  5. Okay, I’ve re-read anon’s post, although I didn’t re-read the comments, because I’ve been reading ABOUT them for weeks it seems.

    I wish that “anon” had been more careful and less angry in his writing, because he made plenty of valid points. But his evident seething and sloppy editing just opened him up to all manner of attacks – attacks that were unjustifiable in the context of a public discussion, I might add. Some of the community’s response to “anon’s” essay was, to my mind, unconscionable. This was not good behavior, even if “anon” had been wrong. And he was not wrong.

    With some 800 m/m books under my belt in the five plus years I’ve been reading this genre, I’ve learned for myself which kinds of books (and frankly, which authors) to avoid. On the other hand, I have found any number of authors – female and male – who write books that deserve to be mainstream, because of their quality, because of their depiction of gay men as believable, reality-based people, because of plotlines that echo real life and thus the lives of any gay men who might read them.

    I agree with “anon” that the blinkered objectification of gay men and obsession with constant sexual activity will limit the potential audience for works that do this. I agree that this sort of very narrowly-focused fantasy does the gay male community (I’m consciously limiting it here) no particular good in the short or the long run.

    But I also believe that the lingering homophobia (at worst) and disinterest (at best) in the mainstream publishing world is really what keeps gay lit and gay-themed romances out of the mainstream. I know people in mainstream publishing, and even gay people in that industry are well-indoctrinated into the reality that gay doesn’t sell, except every once in a while, and never as the main course.

    This is the big lie that Hollywood and the entertainment industry and the publishing industry continue to believe. Lurid objectification of gay men doesn’t help, but that’s far from the root cause (look at “Fifty Shades of Gray,” which is by any standard a piece of crap. The gay version of that would never in a million years have even been noticed, much less been made into a film).

    Unfortunately, “anon’s” sampling seems to have been more limited than mine, which resulted in a sweeping critique of the genre without any sort of firm backup to support his anger. Writing essays while you’re pissed off is akin to shopping when you’re hungry. For all the fetishized, improbable gay stories out there in the m/m world, there is an equal and growing number of well-written, carefully plotted, and thoughtfully cast novels that combine romance and good story-telling. There are plenty of writers of both genders who produce books that not only make me feel better about being gay, but make me proud to part of the m/m world.

    I am not a collectible. I am an older, educated gay man with a very longtime husband and two nearly grown children. In a world that tries to keep me and my family invisible, I desperately need to see myself in books. I need emotionally and physically plausible depictions of gay reality, to feel grounded in world that continues to suppress my reality-even in a context that is paranormal, sci-fi, or steampunk.

    I won’t mind if my truth is romanticized a little, but I will grow weary if all I read about is other people’s fantasies that have no connection to my own aspirations and dreams.

    • I feel I’ve been writing and talking about this particular ‘anon’ post for weeks, but I hurt all over again when I read Katie’s post and I am overwhelmed with the desire to hug Ulysses.

    • Thank you for your view on things. It definitely gives us all something else to think about. I wish more comments like this would have shown up last weekend when this whole things started. You pointed out very respectfully the things you disliked but also acknowledged some valid points. Instead of simply attacking and adding to to the whirlwind of anger. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Ulysses, for laying it all out logically and compassionately, as well as giving your personal thoughts without getting defensive. You rawk.

      Katie, I’m sorry that you were hurt by this. I don’t like that at all. Thank you for taking the time and care to share this with everyone.

      Most (not all) who commented made it about them, making it appear as though they felt the need to defend their opinion, view, and experience. Or to offer proof as to why they’re better, aka more valuable, at being a member of a community than “anon” because of those views and experiences. Even if “anon” had desired discussion (we might never know the answer to that), why would they come back when people started hurling hurtful words and basically telling them to fuck off?

      “Anon” had some good points, and bad, none of them communicated well nor backed up by any easily recognizable research. They didn’t do themselves any favors. This made it even easier for some to share the reactions they did.

      Still, I think it’s rather obvious “anon” was coming from a place of hurt, which translated into anger and blanket generalities, like anger sometimes causes. Instead of asking questions about where the pain might be coming from, what specific experience “anon” had with books and authors, and media, in recent years, for clarification on some of their points, etc., most commenters went the opposite direction, and with a fair dose of negativity.

      Doors were shut on both sides, cutting off communication and the possibility of discussion and forward progress. I have a feeling that most of the commenters and “anon” are decent people, but they didn’t demonstrate that in the post. That’s what’s saddest to me. Social media has made it easy to set aside the fact that human beings are sitting behind those keyboards and screens, allowing for people to get into defense mode, staying there, and not engaging in real discussion.

      In other words, just because “anon” started things off in an ill-conceived way didn’t mean commenters had to follow suit.

      “Anon” clearly mixed several points that deserve their own conversations into a single post, muddying the already swirling waters. Some people do treat gay men as trophies or badges of proof of their “ally” status. I’ve seen it. Does that mean every person who knows porn stars and uses them on their covers are guilty of that? No.

      Do some conventions include barely clad men dancing or otherwise involved in some of the events? Yep. Does that mean those men are seen by attendees as objects to be used and not treated as fellow human beings? No.

      “Anon” definitely wades into dangerous waters when they start criticizing the different types of stories out there, placing value on some over others, pitting erotica against fiction against porn against mystery against romance, etc. There’s “this vs that”. Ulysses said this much better than I ever could.

      The final two sentences of “anon’s” post are the most telling in that they’re coming from a place of hurt, frustration, and anger. In the paragraph prior, they say “our books”… think about that.

      I could go on and on (obvs lol), but this feels like another example of the bandwagon having gained steam instead of meaningful discussion and pointed efforts to minimize pain along the way, both coming from the initial post and then in response by some commenters.

      It’s difficult to maintain context, intent, and complex emotion on the internet. Maybe this whole thing will help all of us to try harder. I think we’re all worth it.

  6. I’ve read that anon’s post and maybe I’m insensitive in your opinion but for me it was an angry and agressive as demeaning post. I felt that this anon had really only a very limited knowledge of the whole genre and the community and the people involved.
    I’ve been reading m/m books for five years now and I couldn’t recognize the community I’ve grown to like in his post, and defintely not myself in his description of the women (oggling nude male buttholes – as if we were interested in the buttholes – but getting angry at their husbands for looking at nude female pics? Seriously?)
    Of course I commented – I’m one of these people you accuse in your post here, who obviously didn’t see the hurt. No, I didn’t see hurt. I saw anger and annoyance and very poorly researched tidbits thrown at us like facts.
    I’ve read posts like that before in these years, I even tried to talk to the people posting them, only to be shut down with phrases like “women shouldn’t try to write gay relationships” and “women don’t understand gay men.”
    Yes, I felt hurt. But I assume you are not interested on how this article affected its readers.You see the hurt in the anon’s post but not the hurt in the responding comments. But see, this whole blogging stuff is a two way street: Not only the blogger writes about something that affects him, the commenters are affected by the blog and react.
    Where some of the comments agressive, too? Well, everybody reacts differently. I hope my post wasn’t, I tried very hard to be factual, but of course, nobody knows how the written word ends up in another persons head.
    But maybe you take a minute and actually think about it: Is it fair to ask for understanding for someone who starts a discussion by accusing and deaming people (even supposedly if the person is hurting?) but not even trying to understand the reaction of the people who feel like they are accused of something they didn’t do?
    I commented – this was my way of dealing with the feeling of “what the f***, does this anon even know what he is writing about?” and “I feel violated by this blogpost as a m/m reading woman”.
    I didn’t get a response by the anon – so I don’t assume he is interested in a discussion.

    • Well, I see your point and actually you helped me make mine. As I mentioned in my post, I recognized that the commenters were also hurt and may have simply been expressing their feelings in a way “I” found rude or hateful. I acknowledged that how their posts were seen was maybe not their intention. You said it yourself, you tried to make your feelings known, you tried to have a conversation, you tried to talk to the other commenters and were shut down. That is all I was trying to say, is that in all of this, I had my feelings hurt because I unlike you, was too afraid to comment. Thank you for commenting and sharing another view point.

  7. Thank you for saying this. It’s not been a time when I felt particularly proud to be part of this community. In an ideal world, I would hope we all had the grace and compassion to listen when someone is hurting, but I’ve seen very little of that (all respect to those who have spoken up). We seem to live in an era where pointing out that someone has hurt you is a more heinous crime than actually causing hurt. As writers, surely we should be making the effort to see the world from another perspective and trying to walk a mile in another’s shoes–surely that’s exactly what we do for a living. Surely that’s more interesting and life-changing than refusing to look beyond our own limits.

    The original post was flawed, definitely. It was poorly expressed. It saw a subset of m/m romance as representative of the whole (let’s be honest, we all know those yay!twococksarebetterthanone books are out there). But the tidal wave of outrage that it unleashed silenced a lot of people. None of us are perfect as authors or readers. We all make mistakes, even with the best intentions in the world, but the outrage means we can’t talk about it, can’t try to learn, can’t discuss and evaluate what is genuinely problematic about the stories we tell and the way we choose to tell them. Of course it’s painful to acknowledge that we might be hurting those we think we care most about, but covering our ears and screaming, “How dare you say that about meeeeeee!” is the easy option. Thinking, processing, and changing the way we write (and read) is hard. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

    • Thank you for this! I was so afraid to post this because I was worried folks wouldn’t understand my side of things. Just like anything in life there are many ways to see and many ways to behave, I just wanted to point out that sometimes, there are unintended consequences when we don’t think before we speak.

    • amyraenbow, I think you nailed it:

      “We seem to live in an era where pointing out that someone has hurt you is a more heinous crime than actually causing hurt.”

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