Spread Love, Not Hate – Speak Out Against Bullying

Posted by Melissa on February 3, 2012 in Events |

I have to say that I am proud to be a part of the wave of people who are participating in K.C. Neal’s Spread Love, Not Hate campaign, started on Goodreads, The Young Adult Book Club.  I just read M. E. Franco’s post where she talks about her daughter’s experience with bullying.  As I read, my heart sank at what her daughter had experienced.  She mentioned that bullying in the modern digital age isn’t exclusive to schools though, but can be found everywhere, especially online, aka, cyber bullying.

What has been my experience with cyber bullies?  A while back, on Goodreads, I was checking out reviews on a book in which I was interested and stumbled across a review that I found particularly offensive.  I made a comment on the thread that I thought the review was harsh and little did I know that would cause a major cyber bully 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 author, so they started attacking my books, posting one-star reviews, slandering me, and spreading rumors about me that weren’t true.  I was called: “a piece of shit,” “a dumb ass,” “a stupid bitch,” and “a fucking moron,” to name only a few of the delightful words they used.  It didn’t stop there.  They also began stalking me online, placing nasty comments on my Goodreads page and my website and accusing me of creating sock puppets and faking reviews.  I have since had to block all of them online and delete their comments.

Finally, one day during my writers’ group session, I told my friends about what was happening.  One of my group members, Jay, who is infinitely more experienced on Goodreads than I am, told me that he knows of this group of people and warned me to watch out for them.  I won’t name any names on this post because it is against the rules and we are supposed to spread love, not hate … but, most often, when you are perusing the reviews of the most popular YA books on Goodreads and you happen to see one of the top reviews, that is a scathing, one-star review with a bunch of ‘likes’ and comments attached to it, you can bet that that is them (you can find out more about them on this website).  What they do is doctor their reviews so that all their negative reviews are pushed to the top while the positive reviews are pushed to the bottom, thus creating an imbalance.  They do this so that their voices will be heard above all the others.  In other words, they game the system.

These Goodreads members have also been known to start wars with authors such as Leigh Fallon, Maggie Steifvater, and Kiera Cass, who have all noticed their behavior.  As Leigh Fallon put it:

There is [a member] from Goodreads who has been real nasty and keeps doing up really bad reviews of Carrier, then gets her friends to go in and ‘like’ her bad reviews so that that review will be pushed up to the top of all the lists. Now she’s put it up on Amazon!

I’m not sure why these members act the way they do.  One of my Goodreads friends posted a comment on my blog about it:

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.

Maybe she is right.  Perhaps they think it is okay to bully someone online and not in person – that it won’t affect them because they are doing it “on the internet” after all.  But the problem is that it does affect people.  I’m not too worried about myself because I’m not susceptible to people who act like this.  I’m an adult and my self-esteem is high enough that it doesn’t really do any damage, but what I am worried about is all those out there who take these kinds of attacks to heart.  I’m worried about all the younger people who will think: What have I done to make them hate me?  Am I really as worthless as they are saying?  And even worse: Should I even go on living?  This is what I’m worried about and I can’t believe that the Goodreads moderators let this continue on their site.

I am proud of K.C. Neal for starting this campaign and I will continue to fight against online bullying until it stops.  There are also organizations that were created to counteract the abuse of cyber bullies: cyberbullyinghelp.com.  To conclude, I found some good quotes from this online organization:

  • “The more kids are aware of what bullying is, the better. Simple teasing can really take a toll on a kid.  We just want kids to know bullying when they see it, so they can at least try to stop it.” – Carl Sousa
  • “You must have the dedication, determination and desire to be a friend, not a bully.” – Chris Hollyfield
  • “Hazing is where bullying becomes most clear, or where it is most simply enacted, because you can really see the negative acts form a pattern and you can also see an imbalance of power.” – Stuart Green
  • “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King
  • “Be nice to people on your way up because you will meet them on your way down.” – Jimmy Durante

Below is the list of all the official participants of Spread Love, Not Hate.  There were many more unofficial participants who didn’t get the message in time for the February 3rd deadline:

This linky list is now closed.

Happy Reading!

~ Melissa

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  • Aderyn says:

    A great post thanks for the Links, I will definitely check out that campaign on goodreads. I am a high school teacher and at our school cyber bullying is more of a problem than the ‘traditional’ variety of bullying, particularly amongst girls. It’s quite strange, for some reason some girls aged 13-15 become very attracted to bitchy behaviour. Mostly they grow out of it thank god! Although we probably all know the odd adult who hasn’t. It’s awful what has happened to you and other authors. But as you say, at least it doesn’t affect you, a younger, less self- assured person would be devastated.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Aderyn, thanks for the comment. I’m sure as a teacher you know more about it than I do. After reading up on it, I’ve learned that apparently this bullying has become a real problem in the US. I’ve been going through all the blog posts written by bloggers who are participating in this movement and some of their stories are so heartbreaking. I, like you, think it is very important to teach others about it and spread love not hate. Hate is like a virus that spreads and does so much damage, especially to those that are young and vulnerable.

  • Divers says:

    this is an awesome post, mel!

  • Lubna says:

    Oh, my god. I devour books and am pretty active on GoodReads. Recently I posted on how I am a bit more sensitive when it comes to reviewing books by new authors – if there are grammatical errors, I make a passing reference of the same, but do not demolish the book. If the book is interesting, I do rate it fairly, taking into account the fact that the writer is new and the publishing house is also new (after all the book is also priced lower). A few people did blast this idea.
    If only people could be nicer to each other.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Lubna,

    Yeah, I don’t understand the hate either. It’s crazy.

  • I know these people, too.

    One thing I’ve learned that others dealing with them would need to keep in mind:

    1) They consider their opinion about an author a “book review”. If the author disputes a lie, they say the author threw a fit over a … BOOK review.

    2) They consider taking snippets of what an author says … sharing things “in context”. They will even use a summary to let you know what the author was trying to say. If anyone refutes that and posts the full context, they just ignore that and keep saying what they have already said until they drown out the evidence. If enough of them say something, and if they can keep enough of the full story hidden, they think that will make them right.

    3) If they and all their friends say something bad about you, it’s true. If all YOUR friends say something about you, it’s not true. If STRANGERS say something to support you, they are really just your friends being sock puppets. Because it is NOT possible that anyone could see their behavior as wrong, especially since they all agree with one another.

    4) They are growing in number, and don’t believe there are people out there who disagree with them who are too afraid to speak up … even though they have intentionally created a reason for anyone to be afraid to disagree with them, lest they receive the same treatment.

    They are a poor reflection on the reviewing community and have devalued the book review system to the point I’ve given up on using book reviews (unless I personally know the reviewer) to decide which books I want to read. If they keep it up, they are going to take themselves from being important in the publishing world to being considered unreliable and irrelevant.

  • Melissa says:

    Wow! I couldn’t have said that better myself! That is EXACTLY the way they are. Well said, Rebecca!

  • M. A. says:

    Per Rebecca: “They are a poor reflection on the reviewing community and have devalued the book review system to the point I’ve given up on using book reviews (unless I personally know the reviewer) to decide which books I want to read. If they keep it up, they are going to take themselves from being important in the publishing world to being considered unreliable and irrelevant.”

    I don’t believe any of the participants in these episodes of harrassment and bullying care one whit about the reviewing community’s importance. They care about being able to perceive themselves as important. If they genuinely respected the Goodreads community, they would review books and do their part to maintain a professional environment where everyone is welcome to a say.

    Instead, they do everything they can to contribute to a toxic, hostile environment. No one who really cares about books is glad to read these people because discerning readers see right through them. They understand why these people are present, and it isn’t to discuss reading experiences.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi M.A.! Thanks for the comment!

    You’re absolutely right – these people don’t care about the reviewing community. They care about themselves and about being the “top reviewers” of Goodreads. If you can believe it – this is actually how they describe themselves. For me, it is a bit of a joke because I don’t consider what they write to be reviews at all. They’re more like hate rants. A friend of mine called these people predatory reviewers. I think that is a fitting label for them.

    “Instead, they do everything they can to contribute to a toxic, hostile environment.”
    Correct! This is why a friend of mine calls them predatory reviewers. I think that’s a much more fitting name than “top reviewers.”

  • Amy says:

    I read on Goodreads that the Kirkus review of your book was an indie review that you chose not to have published. Why? Was it a bad review?

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Amy!

    Thanks for the question!

    No, it wasn’t a bad review. It was a critical review of the book that I had done so that I could improve it. It was done pre-pub and was never meant to be published.

    I had heard that Kirkus are the toughest reviewers of books, so I had them review it for me. I did it to spot the weak points in the book because it was my debut novel. After I received the review, I edited the book. So the review no longer really applied after that, except for the snippet about the dialogue. I didn’t change the dialogue.

    I hope that answers your question! =o)

  • Hello is it okay if I post a link to a great anti bullying campaign facebook page?

  • Please spread this website as far as you can.

  • Michelle says:

    Melissa, how come you took your post about Wendy Darling down? I remember reading it last year. Now it’s gone.

  • D. says:

    Hey Mel, you’ve probably already heard by now that Goodreads changed its reviewing policy. Must feel pretty awesome to know you were right this whole time. Vindication is sweet, isn’t it?

    • Melissa says:

      Yes, it is. It’s good to see Goodreads finally doing the right thing. Not that I would ever go back. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back there, but still, it’s good to see that they’re finally cleaning up the site.

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