I survived high school.
I assume most of you did, too. Or you wouldn’t be here reading this. Well, some of you might still BE in high school. (If so, you have my most abject apologies. You’ll make it out. Just keep your head down and remember: it ends eventually.)
Once you’re out of high school, if it was bad, you breathe a sigh of relief. The worst is behind you; the rest will be cake. Right? I mean, you survived high school. You survived being shoved into a building with people who wanted to destroy everything you were on a daily basis for four very, VERY long years. What else could the world throw at you that could compete with that?
What no one tells you is, the bullies don’t always grow up. Sometimes, they just move onto another building, be it actual or metaphorical, and continue doing what they do best: making others feel small so they can feel big.
Lately, I’ve noticed the building they’ve moved into is the blogosphere.
And blogging, lately, has been like attending the school in Mean Girls.
You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, J.V. jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, Varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don’t eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst. Beware of Plastics.
Blogging attracts all kinds of people. That’s honestly one of the cool things about it. I mean, if we were all the same, what fun would that be? On any given day you can read about life in Europe, the latest tech news, a humorous take on a trip to the laundromat, a serious piece about the nature of grief, a post about motherhood, a post recapping the latest episode of True Blood, a book review. All without leaving the comfort of your living room (or your office chair, if you’re reading at work, I suppose. Keep an eye out for your boss.)
It’s great because it’s open to anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection. It’s equal-opportunity. If you have a voice, and words to express yourself? Welcome to the community.
Except, as we learn in Mean Girls…beware of Plastics.
In the movie, the Plastics rule the school. They’re mean to everyone they don’t like (and even people they do like, sometimes.) They have rules; how you can act, what you have to wear on certain days, and where you can (and can’t) sit, depending on what you’re wearing.
In the blogosphere, the Plastics are…well, pretty much the same. Only they’re hiding behind a computer screen, so they feel their anonymity brings even more power. Let’s call them the Web-Plastics.
The Web-Plastics think their writing is better than anyone else’s; therefore, they rip apart everyone else’s writing.
The Web-Plastics think certain topics (mommy blogging, book blogging) are lesser-than; therefore, they run those bloggers down. They depreciate anything they do. They try to make them feel small, because their writing isn’t as important as whatever they’re doing.
The Web-Plastics steal ideas and posts from “lesser” bloggers, then when they’re called out on it, turn it around on the one who was stolen from: “You’re just trying to hitch a ride on our popularity. You’re no one. We’re someone. Shut up and stop whining.”
The Web-Plastics think they’re the only ones doing anything worthwhile; if other bloggers aren’t doing it the way they would, they mock them, and shame them, sometimes even publicly, so that sometimes those bloggers become so disheartened they stop writing altogether.
The Web-Plastics think that “funny” equals “cruel,” and write posts tagged “humor” in which they mock…anything. Whatever they feel like mocking. But usually people that are just trying their hardest to get by.
Best of all, the Web-Plastics have minions.
These minions are other Web-Plastics, or wannabe Web-Plastics. Who will like and comment on everything they do; who will go to the posts of the people who are out of favor with the Web-Plastics and troll them with mean comments and insults and sometimes skate the edge of threats; who will say or do whatever the Web-Plastics tell them to, because it’s easier to go along with the dictator than to become one of the people who’s being bullied. And believe you me, that’s who you become, if you buck the Web-Plastics. You get the full-frontal of their wrath. And their petrified minions’ wrath, as well.
The Plastics and the Web-Plastics have many things in common, but it all boils down to this:
On Wednesdays, WE WEAR PINK.
And if you don’t wear pink, you can’t sit with them.
Social (media) suicide.
There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of being told I need to wear pink, and I’m tired of being told where I can and cannot sit, and I’m tired of seeing evil stuff being done and not trying to stop it. I didn’t go through 8 (yes, 8, the bullies started early at my school) years of hell just to be told what to say or do or be now.
I’m tired of seeing mean posts about fellow bloggers. And mean slightly-veiled Facebook statuses. And snarky comments on other bloggers’ posts that they obviously worked very hard on. And don’t think the irony has missed me that the minute, the MINUTE, anyone says a word about any of the Web-Plastics, they run crying for sympathy, or run to their minions crying “vengeance shall be ours! You’re all my best friends until I no longer need you, and when that happens, I will ignore you as if you never existed.”
Or, even more delicious, the irony that the Web-Plastics would be the first ones to come out as anti-bullying, because NO! THEY would never bully anyone! And anyone that WOULD, my GOODNESS, hang ’em up by their TOENAILS! Bullying is, like, just so WRONG!
Because what they’re doing, see, it isn’t BULLYING. They rule the internet, you see. They’re just running it the way it needs to be run. Who better to make the rules for the rest of us?
Here’s a rule I like to live by on the internet.
If you don’t like someone’s blog: don’t read it.
It’s very simple.
Take it out of your reader. Don’t click on it. Don’t click on people’s links when they tweet about it.
If the blog is offensive, if the blog is openly offending you, or a large group of people, or it’s just flat-out wrong about something – fine. I get it. I do. You want to fight against injustice.
But if the blog is, in your opinion, poorly-written, or about a topic that bores you, or a topic you consider beneath you and your perfect sparkly rainbow taste: just don’t read it.
There. I’ve freed up precious moments in your day to do whatever it is you do. Kick puppies. Berate your children for not being better at sports. Scream at your spouses for not getting that perfect crease in your slacks. Masturbate until you weep about your empty, sad, lonely life.
Today, I unfollowed fifteen blogs that I noticed were getting meaner and meaner; that had gone full-on Web-Plastic. Going around doling out attention to people they wanted to join their cults, but not too much attention; it wouldn’t be seemly. Writing posts telling others how to behave, and how not to behave. Calling out others for not doing it right. Calling out others for not being them.
It’s metaphorically Wednesday, and I’m wearing black. I’m wearing green, blue, yellow, white. I’m wearing anything but pink.
Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.
Bloggers: we’re all worthy. We’re all writing our truths. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. I’m not talking to the Web-Plastics. I’m talking to the rest of you. If we join together, we’re a bigger group than they are. If we support one another and refuse to let the negativity into our lives – if we just flat-out refuse to participate, be it by reading, commenting, or being sucked into the maelstrom of drama these people need to survive – they will eventually wither and die. Because they need the drama. They feed on what’s created when they’re mean. They’re psychic vampires.
If we put out all the good we have, if we refuse to accept it when it is addressed to ourselves or others, if we support our fellow bloggers…
…THEN we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
It’ll be like pouring a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West. Lots of screaming. Lots of fizzling. And, best of all, lots of disappearing.
On Wednesdays, they may want us to wear pink.
I’m here to say on Wednesdays, as on any day of the week, you can wear whatever the hell you want. And you’re going to look FABULOUS, darling.
Keep writing. Keep doing your thing. Because I can tell you from experience – there’s nothing a bully likes less than someone standing up to them. Unless it’s being ignored. They’re not too keen on that, either.
And hey, you guys? You’re welcome to sit at my table.
It’s a huge table.
It’s the size of the whole fucking internet.
(Special thanks to Emily at The Waiting, whose blog is wonderful and whose post earlier in the week – and the conversation with her I had in the comments – helped bring this post, which was percolating at the time, to the page. Emily, you are always welcome at my table. No matter what you wear. I’ll save you a seat and one of those little milks.)