An Open Letter About Bullying

Bullying comes in many shapes and sizes. We all know the typical class bully - the one who trips you in the halls, calls you names and calls attention to those around to join in. In my youth it was a couple of girls who enjoyed torturing the new shy girl from a private school who dressed a bit different. I was incredibly awkward and resembled Olive Oyl. I used to get kicked in the backs of my legs in lunch line by them, called a lesbian (which I was not) and various horrible names I will not write here. I hid in the library with the librarian Mrs Ackerman for the better part of that whole year God bless her. I still remember when my mom came on a particularly awful day and I was so terrified of what those girls might do if they saw me with my MOM at school. So rather than let her love me and visit I sent her away in tears. The bus was an equally horrible time and one boy  used to spit on me. I switched to another school the following year but even there we still had a group that used to throw hamburgers at our table at lunch (which is kind of funny now that I write it but wasn't at the time). One girl used to tell me I was disgusting because I had a thigh gap (before that was even a thing). Another person used to call me "Blinkin" because I would roll my eyes at him and ask if I was anorexic and had I thrown up my lunch (insert eye roll- he never did figure out the difference between eating disorders). So I wasn't cool- we've established that much. It taught me who I did and did not want to be in life these people and experiences. In some ways I do not regret them. I fully believe in "treat people how you want to be treated." Most days  growing up I felt pretty loved and I had some truly wonderful friends I made during that time. To this day although I don't see them as often as I like I will always love them very much. 

All through your life there are always going to be bullies. We now live in a time of being even more visible than just in a lunch line. We live in a world run by social media. We can know more about someone in just a simple click of a mouse than ever before via the internet. It is both amazing and frightening. A blessing and a curse. 

A lot of us are not aware of the fact: NEGATIVITY ONLINE SPREADS LIKE WILDFIRE. Do you ever see those posts? The ones that people share for a cause or a positive quote of the day seem to get very little traffic a lot of times.  Well facts are if you share a negative post you will gain three times the amount of attention and traffic as a positive in many cases. The way algorithms work on social media is they then show us things that have the most comments and traffic. If something bad takes off it will flood out all others.

Why am I writing this? I am sharing this because beginning a bit this last April someone began bullying my business online. I would happily accept a poor review and do everything I could to rectify something with a client were there to be an issue. This was clearly a profile designed to bully businesses one of which told me to be careful as this person was unstable but they could not name name them due to HIPAA. After I tracked it to other forms of social media and fake profiles it disappeared until recently and it came back with a vengeance. It came back not just on my business but there was a fake profile trolling my personal accounts making comments as well. As people rallied around me they became more aggressive and made even more posts I did not continue to share. The thing about being bullied online verses in the lunch line - you really cannot fight back. I have never been a fighter (unless its for someone else because I am always a fan of the underdog).  As it continued and people helped me to pray and supported me I decided I would not hide in the library. Not this time. Being bullied online makes you feel helpless. It made me analyze every single aspect of every shoot and client I've ever worked with. "Was I good enough?" There is no one in front of you to confront and deal with, just this ghost online. It made me second guess myself in so many ways. We all hope that in such situations we would have much grace. But in fact while I prayed for them I was up all night, tracking strange profiles, not getting enough sleep, snappy with people I love and exhausted. Losing time that should have been spent living my life. Unfortunately this is what people who target want. They want to make you unhappy because THEY are unhappy. So in some ways they win because they've altered you. They've made you hurt and distrustful of those who love you, they've blinded you to seeing the positives around you. They have brought you in some ways to their level of thinking. 

This leads to the most heartbreaking part of my story. My cyber bully was someone I've known almost my whole life. Someone who held my hand through one of the most difficult years of my life six years ago. Someone I love and have loved always no matter what. Despite their mental illness I have always been ready to stand by them, rejoiced in their beauty even when they could not see it, and loved their unique quirks and personality. I cannot even find it in me to be mad, just very very sad. I will love them and I will pray for them to find love of life and joy again.

Know that if you are being cyber bullied you can stand up for yourself. Although many hosts such as Google and Facebook may not take down poor reviews you CAN subpoena IP addresses. There are ways to find out who is behind such acts in a lot of cases. Or as in my case I chose to investigate and to post and warn on all social media outlets and reviews of my intent to do so and that was I was lucky enough that the party came forward.

There are much worse forms of cyber bullying in the world. Mine is minute in comparison to many but I wanted to share a bit about my experience and raise awareness that this happens not just at childhood level it can happen to anyone.