With many writers now turning to the internet for work, it’s not surprising to hear that the online trolls have made them their next target. From terrible reviews to death threats, it is something that can affect not just the writers themselves but also their careers, and some of those being targeted are crying out for change.
It’s something we all know is bad for us, yet we still do it. Read the comments section. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled through this to be left without any hope for society.
I’m lucky though, because this is something that, although unpleasant, I can avoid. I can’t imagine what is must be like to have a comment section about me, but this is a harsh reality for some. Many writers who rely on the internet for work have found themselves targets of seemingly unprovoked aggression and hate, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon.
What Exactly Is Happening?
In 2013, young writer Lauren Howard cancelled the release of her self-published book Learning to Love due to the backlash she was receiving online. After seeing a two-star review of her book appear on Goodreads, despite the fact that it was impossible for the rater to have read it yet, Lauren asked about this on a Goodreads message board.
According to an article by The Daily Dot, Lauren said that, “it was explained to me that people can rate as a way of expressing their interest in the book…I was then attacked by people for asking that question. People started to rate 1-star to prove ‘we can rate whatever the hell we want’. My book was added to shelves named ‘author should be sodomized’ and ‘should be raped in prison’ and other violent offensive things, all for asking a simple question.”
Anne Rice, author of Interview With the Vampire has also spoken out about this. In an interview with The Guardian, she stated that “it’s an obsession with them, a sport, a full-time hobby…the anti-author bullies have misused and abused anonymity there (Amazon reviews) for their endless preying on writers. They are a tiny minority, true, but to the authors they harass and torment and endlessly attack, they are no joking matter.”
What Is Online Bullying/Harassment?
This is the general term used to describe the act of using the internet to embarrass, threaten or harass another person.
In terms of writers specifically, this is usually in the form of bad online reviews to intentionally threaten any interest from potential readers, as well as general abuse.
The Difference Between Harassment And Criticism
Most writers know that you can’t please everybody. Not everyone is going to like what you produce and most of us are fine with that, we take the criticism and use it to better ourselves and our work. Many bullies like to try and disguise their behaviour by calling it such when in fact it’s very different.
Criticism is giving someone give feedback on their piece of writing and pick out the merits and faults in order to help that person improve. Insulting or threatening a person because you don’t like them or their book is not helpful (or necessary) in any way.
Is There Anything Being Done About Internet Trolls?
Short answer – No. There was a petition running on Change.org that was trying to have stricter rules around reviews on Amazon, although it seems to have been unsuccessful. Unfortunately, many people view this issue as authors and web writers being ‘snowflakes’ who are easily offended and can’t take criticism.
The sad reality goes on for many writers trying to make ends meet in the online world. While many have developed a thick skin over time, it seems that until this is taken seriously all we can do is shrug our shoulders and say, ‘it’s all in a day’s work’.
Abby Munckhof has always had a passion for creative writing ever since her primary school days and since graduating college has been actively working towards a career of being a freelance writer and copy-editor. Her ultimate goal is to write children’s fiction.
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