Ever been cyberstalked?
I have. It ain’t fun.
A part-time employee where I work was facing termination. He had never been a strong worker, rebuffing his supervisor and other full-time staff efforts to get him to do his job. He lazed about and passed his work onto the next shift. He complained about how he could not do what needed to be done in the time allotted him, even though others managed to do his work and their own in the same amount of time. He blamed co-worker after co-worker for his lack of work ethic, for talking to him too much, for this and that, and, by spreading a myriad of lies about what they supposedly told him in private, he managed to get one fired.
That was the beginning of the end, since, after getting that person fired, he no longer had a convenient scapegoat to blame. He managed to get even less work done than before, and his feeble attempts to go after yet another co-worker for his own failings fell flat. He took disability for psychological problems, but that only extended the inevitable.
He knew he was on his way out. When he came back, he decided he had to take someone with him—and that someone was me.
He told tales. He made stuff up about my behavior and how poorly I treated him and complained to the manager about it. When those tactics didn’t get me in trouble (funny, he never had witnesses to these events), he tried to access my Facebook, searching for dirt, and found out that he could not. Friends only. So he nosed about and tried to conscript others to spy on me through social media for him. He needed to prove what a terrible person I was, and he figured there must be plenty of evidence lying around in old posts, old writings, things that would get me written up and fired. I was unfriended and deleted by those who did not want to get involved and by those who did not want to give him access to me through their accounts. He harassed them, trying to get to me. He even texted one employee to tell her he had checked her friend’s list and knew I was on it, and that if she asked him to dig up dirt on someone, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. That’s what friends were for. What was her problem?
The employee, troubled by what she considered unethical behavior, showed this text conversation to our manager, who promptly ignored it. I told the manager this behavior was unprofessional and creepy and I did not feel safe around the employee—I was chastised for feeling that way. My stalker wouldn’t hurt anyone—other than the fact he had already gotten a co-worker fired, bullied another (that we had proof for. He was actually very nasty to most of the women employees, but they, because they knew the manager would do nothing about it, remained silent) and bragged constantly about getting an ex deported. Yeah, he was harmless.
All those feelings of helplessness and unease returned in force during the (semi-recent) uproar over Ophelia Benson claiming gender was more difficult than “man” and “woman” when a transperson asked her if a transwoman was a woman. People stalked her, reading past posts, past writings, past everything, trying to find something to nail her as a TERF with. Don’t like her answer? Let’s do our best to destroy her reputation by digging for dirt and slinging what we find, however vague, into the wide open fields of “I don’t have to prove anything if I’m pissed, as long as I get to hurt the person who upset me in return.”
I stopped reading the exchanges. I couldn’t read them and not burn in fury. What I saw were people who, just like my co-worker, were bound and determined to take someone down, no matter the tactics. No matter the bullying. No matter anything. Any legitimate conversation and disagreement was lost in the flood of shit. And several bloggers, many of whom I enjoyed reading in the past, jumped into the fray, supporting those hell-bent on causing emotional damage to someone they decided they didn’t like anymore because of one sentence.
Getting stalked sucks. It triggers depression and anger and the sense of helplessness that you can’t do anything about what’s happening to you. It makes you not trust others. It makes you want to log off—at the bare minimum. Of course, that’s the point. The bullies are hoping the harassment is severe enough that the person they want to punish will do what they want them to do—get off the Internet, get off of life, sit in a dark corner and cower and hope no one comes near enough to harm them. There’s no excuse for it. There’s no excuse in promoting and supporting it. If you have a disagreement, fine. Write about it. Don’t support an Internet mob.
But, as we all know, supporting the mob is so much easier. Needless to say, I now have a long list of bloggers I no longer read–and many of them I had read in the past with delight. I valued their judgments. I valued their insights. It made me sad to realize I can’t trust their opinions anymore. Not, I suppose, that it matters much in the long run–I’m an unknown who is a passive blogger, hardly someone anyone would care about having as a fan. Offend me? Why care? Bloggers offend all the time. Comes with the territory. That’s OK, though. Sometimes it’s more important to uphold your own morality, even if it’s just a personal thing no one else will know about.