Sunday, April 15, 2012

wherein we talk about how cyber space is like junior high school

I've been thinking about a couple of things the past few weeks, and have finally decided that I have sufficiently analyzed some recent personal experiences to be able to write about them.

Part of this thought process began when our local newspapers began writing about the movie Bully.

I am concerned about this subject on several levels:
I am a grandmother that is aware that this is an issue that may impact my grandson
I am the mother of a beautiful woman that was bullied in junior high school and because she communicated well with me, I was able to help her fight back
and I was a victim of bullies as a child -- which I think made me more aware of the need to keep watch on what was happening to my daughter

But I can also say that the phenomenon does not disappear when we leave the school yard.

During the 30 plus years that I worked in corporate jobs I saw bosses practice bullying on employees. One man I worked for had a favorite sport of selecting someone at the staff meeting and grilling them about every minor error they had ever made. Witnessing that kind of public humiliation made me ever vigilant about documenting everything I was ever asked to do. It also made it difficult for me to ever trust that I was safe at work.

For the past 10 years I've had the pleasure of not answering to a corporate boss. As an artist I must be responsive to deadlines if I choose to enter a competition or an art show, but for the most part I work on what I want to work on, when I want to work on it.

A while back I started selling my pieces in an on line store, and joined some groups there. My motivation for this was to have a forum to discuss both the art form and to hopefully gain some insight into how to better sell my work.

And this is where I experienced the fact that regardless the age group involved, the Internet can feel very much like junior high school did.

In my junior high school there were what was called "slam books" -- little bundles of notebook paper that had a persons name written at the top of each page that were passed around so everyone could write what they thought of the person. This was a two edged sword -- you got cut when classmates wrote terrible things about you, and you got cut when you weren't included in the circuit of people passing them around.

I got a little taste of that feeling that humiliation again when I made a comment in the wrong forum and in the flack that followed I was told that I was behaving in a passive/aggressive manner and in general made to feel that the safest thing I could do was withdraw from any discussion.

In fact, I felt so attacked that I actually put my shops and my blog on vacation for a long weekend so I could allow the psychological gashes to scab over.

This week someone else has been the target of this. I have commented only a little because those gashes are just beginning to heal -- but I also feel like a bit of a coward -- should I be saying more?

I'll be thinking on this more I'm sure.