Unacceptable Behavior

Posted by Melissa on October 18, 2011 in Reviews |

The past couple days I have had the strangest experience on Goodreads.  Over the weekend, I was browsing reviews on a particular book to get an idea about it when I stumbled upon a review that was not just disrespectful of the author, but was downright hateful, crass, and nasty.  The language in it was so offensive and distasteful, when I got to the end, I placed a comment on it that said: “Yikes, harsh review.”  Little did I know the bomb that would set off.

One of the commenters on the thread responded with: “So what?”  So, I began to explain that the review itself was not helpful in the least because it was a hate review.  It didn’t tell me anything constructive about the book, it didn’t tell me whether or not the book was a good or bad read, and it certainly didn’t help the author, nor did it even make the reviewer look like a decent mature human being.  All it told me was that the reviewer hated the author and would say anything to get that point across.  The only redeeming value (if you can say redeeming) it could have had was that it allowed the reviewer to spew venom all over a hated author.  As I read, I sat there shaking my head, thinking: What is the point of this review?  It was a review that I immediately dismissed as being hate trash.

Well, once I explained this, a multitude of commenters began slinging a whole slew of attacks against me, calling me all kinds of names, telling me how wrong I was, that I was evil, mean, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, etc. etc.  I was really blown away by the anger and hatred from the readers that I even mentioned it several times, in vain of course, because they didn’t pay attention.  Hatred seemed to emanate from every word that came from them, even in their reviews which I checked out on Goodreads in the interims.  Not all were hateful though.  A couple mentioned the anger they saw in the thread.  One of the commenters, I actually had a private conversation with in which I learned that these commenters were all teenage girls.  I was shocked.  Girls!  (Edit 1/16/2014: I have since learned through STGRB that this group of people are not just teenage girls.  The group is comprised of women and men of all ages.)

When did teenage girls grow to be so disrespectful and hateful?  When I learned this, I immediately thought: Where are their parents and what are they teaching them?  I was never like this as a teenager and it’s a sign of the times that these girls exist.  Anyhow, I learned further from the girl who was actually a decent human being, about a blog post by Becca Fitspatrick called Be Nice.  As I read it, I found myself agreeing with her.  The general message of the post was that it is never a good idea to write a hate review because it can come back to bite you.  Very true!  Negative reviews are fine, they are actually necessary many times when writing reviews, but there is a big difference between a hate review, like the one I stumbled upon, and a negative review that is fair, balanced, and professional.

I tried explaining this to the girls and even the decent ones didn’t agree.  They seem to want to be able to say whatever they want about people, be as rude and hateful as they want, and experience no negative impact on their private or professional lives because of it.  All I have to say to that is:  Good luck!  These girls have a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do.

This is why this blog post is called Unacceptable Behavior.  Because that kind of behavior should never be tolerated from neither teenagers nor adults.  And it has nothing to do with censoring reviews or oppressing others’ opinions.  It has to do with common decency and respect that should be shown to everyone.

Parents, if you have teenagers like this at home, ground them!  Please do not turn kids like this out into the world to be a menace to society.  Readers, watch out for these types.  They are haters and they don’t know it.  They think they are right about everything.  They think they are justified in whatever they do and say about anyone.  Authors, definitely steer clear of them if you can, it’s not always possible, but do it if you can.  But if you do encounter someone like this, remember that this kind of unacceptable behavior should never be tolerated.  Let them know that.

Happy reading!

~ Melissa



  • Elizabeth says:

    I totally agree with this. Negative comments are fine, as long as they’re being constructive and respectful! The ones on Goodreads (the one you Personal Messaged me about, in fact) was just hateful. And they’re all teenage girls? Wow. I thought i’ve seen animosity, but never have I seen reviews like that! They clearly went after the people telling them their comments were disrespectful. Maybe they feel more secure spewing that crap on the internet…or maybe they spew it no matter if it’s out loud or not. But jeez, we learn in writing classes, when asked to edit our peers’ papers, that we can be constructive, but also tell them what they did well and offer advice in the nicest ways we can. Not bash them. Apparently these girls didn’t get that memo. It’s just sad.

  • Melissa says:

    Yeah, I agree with you. It is sad.

  • […] explosion – just one little comment.  If you want to read about it, I wrote a post on it here.  In any case, those who jumped into the assault checked my profile and discovered that I am an […]

  • Thayer B. says:

    Hi Melissa~

    I just now found you had left Goodreads? A group moderator was concerned about these types of incidents happening on the fora and that is where I found out about it. I will miss you. Isn’t there any policy against deliberate bullying? What sad lives these girls must lead to even go in that direction. Can you imagine?

    I bookmarked your page here to keep up with your writing thoughts. I still have your book on my to-read list.

    Be Well,

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Thayer,

    You are right that they must live sad lives to make it their goal to bully other people.

    As for a GR policy against it, no, there is no policy against bullying. All they said to me when I contacted them was to avoid people like those “types of users” but it’s hard to avoid them when they are constantly stalking you. When I left, some friends and I wrote up a few letters and sent them to the GR higher ups about the problems that these girls cause. Even if they fix the problem, which I don’t think they will, I will never go back to GR.

    I will miss you, too! I will miss all the nice people I met on the site. If you are ever over on Shelfari, be sure to drop me a line!

    I hope you enjoy the book! Be sure to let me know!

  • You can bet I would never let my daughter act like that. In the end, I think you’re right. It says more about them. I think they feel justified because they have each other to back one another up? Everyone else is too afraid to say anything publicly or they will experience backlash (as you are obviously aware). So this further the problem because they think everyone agrees with them because they only get positive feedback and those who think negatively are afraid to get the same treatment if they speak up. As authors we can be accountable for ourselves, but that only goes so far. We can’t make others be accountable for themselves. My daughter is 5 and already has a bit of an attitude problem and every time it comes up, we immediately address it. One of the things I’ve noticed with her is that SHE is miserable when she’s acting like that. It’s not like she is just making others miserable, but she’s experiencing misery, too. So not only do I make effort to stop the behavior because it’s hurtful toward others, I make effort to stop the behavior because I want my daughter to be happy, too. So I think it helps to keep that in mind. Not as an excuse for these behaviors, but just as where they are coming from; these people are unhappy. It doesn’t justify their actions any more than my stresses justify my own poor actions, but I always try to keep the source in mind because it helps to better understand what can be done about it.
    The main advice is always to ignore it, which is HARD. And one of the reasons I just learned it was so hard is through speaking with our family therapist (she mostly comes for the boys; they have Autism). Well, she was talking to me the other day about extinction. To stop a behavior, you have to ignore it … but that creates extinction bursts, which means when you ignore they try HARDER to get your attention. If you give in then, even with negative response, it reinforces and makes the behaviors WORSE. So you have to ignore the extinction bursts, too. Easier said than done, and I wish I’d learned that a few months ago instead of a couple days ago. The other problem with extinction is that even if you ignore someone, when you’re dealing with a group, your lack of attention doesn’t mean lack of attention. It just means lack of attention FROM YOU. So you can ignore, but they might still feed off each other. Which is another thing that makes it a tough thing to stop. I do hope in time that the world starts showing less tolerance to these types of behaviors. It starts with our children, though, I agree. I’m working on mine. I promise you I will do everything I can to raise them to be caring adults. And maybe one day a reviewing community will surface that can have a reputation for genuine book reviews about books. Books, when I was growing up, were such a joy. Don’t you miss those days, before hatred was the ruling form of entertainment?

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Rebecca!

    Yes, I do miss those days. Thanks for the insight. Those are good words.

    I’m sorry the GR bullies attacked you but remember, you’re not alone. Not by far. You have joined a long list of authors whom they have attacked. And as long as the GR moderators let these people continue what they are doing, it will never stop.

    I spoke with one of the moderators and she said that there is no anti-bullying policy on GR and that an author just needs to ignore these “types of users,” just as you said. But the problem is that they don’t EVER leave you alone. They stalk and harass you online. It’s never-ending! I’m still getting nasty comments on my blog.

    Personally, I don’t believe in the passive approach. I believe in aggressively fighting against bullying. I don’t care what those people think about me, their behavior is totally unacceptable and I refuse to tolerate it.

  • Stephanie says:

    Was the review insulting your main character, or was it calling you a no-talent loser? There’s a big difference.

    Could you post the parts of the review that you thought were hateful in a comment?

    Oh, and another thing I’ve noticed: musicians seem fairly immune to harsh criticism, even though they’ve probably put just as much time and effort into their stuff as well. Why is that?

  • Melissa says:

    Stephanie, you misunderstand. I commented on a review of a book written by someone else. It was a book I was interested in reading. It was written by another author, not by me. I was in GR looking at reviews as a reader, because I was interested in reading a book and wanted to know what others had to say about it. The review in question was extremely author bashing. The reviewer started out saying that she wanted to sue the author and then got progressively worse from there. I checked back on GR to get examples from the review to show you but the review is no longer there. The author of the review removed it.

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