Monday, December 29, 2008

Cyberbullying and an Older Generation

I had a strange phone call with my mother today. It started as a flurry of emails:

Mom: Can you go on Facebook? Is there a group called LOLenactors? Can you see it?

Me: I'll check. No, I don't see this group. Do you know someone in the group? I could look up a profile and see if someone's a member?

Mom: Fred Farby.

Me: I'll check. Okay, I have Fred Farby, and here's a list of all the groups he's in.

Mom: It's not on that list.

Me: But there's a ton of reenacting groups. Could it be you have the name wrong?

Mom: Here's an email Martin Musket sent me...

Me: It's just pictures with funny captions and lot of pointing out of farby details.

Mom: Well, someone in our group says there's really nasty comments.

Me: Well, there's remarks about people being heavier than the actual people were, and there's a rant against purple clothes. Not much else.

Mom: Someone was really ticked off by it.

Me: It's just a spoof of the LOL cats. (I explain what the LOL cats are.)

Mom: Well, a lot of people are very upset by all this.

Me: Look, if people are unhappy, we could report the group as stealing photos that
belong to other people. Or we could say it's derrogatory and offensive, that
would get it taken down too. There are ways.

Mom: well...

I don't need to go on, but really, what is this? That's right! It's cyberbullying. It's not up on par with Kathy Sierra or Megan Meier, but still, that's what we're looking at.

When I was little and people picked on me, I was always told to ignore them. It was a strange experience to be explaning the cyber version of this to my mother. I explained to her about times when I have been cyberbullied (via the DailyJolt in college, and blog comments in 2004-5), and really, the only thing you can do is ignore it. I delete nasty comments, because this blog is my space and I'm allowed to.

I wish I could explain to the "ticked off" reenactors how silly it is to be worried about a few lousy pictures like this. First off, no one is actually named in the photos. Second, the group is secret, meaning that it's limited to a handful of members. No one new is going to be able to join the group, it's not in the public domain, and it's not going to spread. I'd love to explain to these people how lucky they are not to be discussed on a major public internet forum, or to be picked up by a major blog or even a magazine.

Just like we all have to put up with an idiot or two (or seven) in the workplace, we have to put up with jerks in real life, and real life now includes the internet.

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