WHO’S THE BULLY NOW?

WHO’S THE BULLY NOW?

A Story by Elise Anton
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I have been musing on an issue...

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The word bully did not exist when I was growing up. The concept was around I’m sure; anywhere there are kids (or adults for that matter) there’s bound to be a hierarchy forming, and a top-dog rising… Part of human nature, one would assume.


I’ve been a victim of many things but bullied as a youngster - no. Sure there were the usual cliques; the ‘in’ girls, the ‘bad’ boys, the ‘nerds’ and so forth. Then again those were the days when as a girl you kept away from certain areas, such as the boy’s lockers on the ground floor outside the cookery room - a gauntlet you ran through, risking any amount of teenage-boy hand groping…


Today, all those young boys would probably be in therapy or on some mind-altering medication or kicked around schools were they to attempt similar behaviors. Back then we just got on with it. It was part of school-life. Some of those boys went on to become great people, sportsmen, academics, business executives. The girls - none of us suffered any permanent psychological ‘damage’. Today we’d probably be in therapy too I guess…


I was bullied as an adult. By other adults. Social Media has its benefits but has also given rise to the ‘keyboard-warriors’. I quit all Social Media several years ago and it has been a blissful time since.


I also taught my boys to use words; use language to overcome the new ‘bullying’ trend, on and off-line. I showed them the magical power of the word “And?” as a response to any insult flung their way. There is no come-back to this single word. One can say it as a response over and over and the ‘bully’ sooner or later runs out of insults. Quite fun to watch actually.


When I arrived on here about a month ago, I noticed a couple of things: Everyone was so nice! All the reviews - however ‘bad’ the piece of writing was - were positive, feel-good accolades. There were moments when I wondered if I’d somehow found my way into a Mutual Admiration Society disguised as a writer’s hang-out.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positivity and not tearing people down. But there was a level of discomfort; I was sensing that this mutual admiration was destructive rather than constructive, especially for the young and those of all ages just embarking on the great writing journey. I wrote a piece on mediocrity a while back, and yeah, I was feeling as though all this niceness everywhere was promoting and supporting this mediocrity.


How is a new writer to explore, expand, perfect, if their every offering is accompanied by gushing admiration from the readers? One learns any craft through correcting mistakes. We call ‘Masters’ those few who have perfected their craft; over a long period of time and after undergoing any amount of ‘botched’ and ‘butchered’ attempts. Usually the public never sees those, they see the perfected craft, the ‘Masterpieces’.


In this new world of computers and internet and instant connectivity, sites such as these have emerged. On the surface, they seem great - you are afforded the freedom to share your work, to expose it to the world by a mere click of a button. Everyone is a writer; everyone suddenly has the ability and the opportunity to ‘get out there’, mix with like-minded people, exchange offerings.


Problem is, these offerings are often the botched and butchered first attempts, the ones the world once never saw. None of us here are ‘Masters’, else we’d be sitting comfy in some place like L.A., sipping a martini poolside, watching the royalties pour in.


I have come across example after example of extremely poor work, cringe-worthy work. I have scrolled down and read bullshit after bullshit review, others seeing greatness where there is none, lauding a creativity that is non-existent. I have seen the creators of these botched pieces respond with “Awww…” and “:)” and any amount of feel good acronyms.


Everyone gets rewarded for encouraging this mediocrity. The writers, given time are awarded a little gold star, like in school. The reviewers in turn, given time, are awarded their own little thingy.


I’ve got a little gold star. Here’s the problem: Is it real? Am I to believe from this that my work merits it? In an environment where EVERYONE is lauded and where reviews have to be over a certain percentage (95% or higher!) to earn the top reviewer thingy, how good is my work REALLY?


Not everyone belongs to this society. I’ve met a few in my brief time here who dare to openly criticize and offer genuine feedback. Some do it nicely, some are quite brash and ‘in your face’ and some like me, work with new writers behind the scenes, when we spy raw talent and a willingness to work, to evolve.


What I am finding interesting is how people react to outright criticism, to the brashness of a few who say it as they see it. If it is crap, they call it crap. If it needs work, they say it needs work. Somehow, these people are perceived as ‘bullies’; and are hounded down, crushed, bullied so much that this dissuades others from openly speaking their mind. In the end they get banned from the site. The status-quo of mediocrity and feel-good brotherhood is thus maintained.


I have to question here, who the real bullies are. Are they the people who believe in truth and in honest opinion and in their right to voice this opinion on the premise that they are helping? Or are they the emergent warriors, quickly rising to defend the ‘hapless victims’ of this honesty? Their excuse sits on the premise that a bad review i.e. a negative review is unwelcome here, as this is a nurturing, supportive environment.


My argument is that these warriors who spew out bullish and despicable words in defense of mediocrity ought not to emerge. Life is tough. Young people and new writers need to learn how to defend themselves, how to take in criticism in whatever form it arrives and learn from it. On their own. This builds resilience and generates the need/desire to improve, perfect their craft. 


It is partly the fault of this site, the giving out of all these little thingies on your profile others see and aspire to gain. I have three now, and I don’t ‘trust’ any of them. I’m getting a fourth one soon, that of ‘top reviewer’. Honestly? I only review work I feel merits my positive review. The botched and butchered pieces I leave alone, as I cannot award them low points or speak sincerely. (More on this later.) So this new thingy coming my way soon is probably the only one I merit, but it too sits on falsity, because I have been selective in the work I review.


The past few days, my news-feed has been full of a mix of mutual-admiration and atrocious bullying. Quite innocently, I stumbled into a situation where the warriors were on the attack. Defending ‘hapless’ women (including myself) and others who have fallen prey to ‘honesty’. I’m far from hapless and certainly not in need of any male(s) coming to my rescue.


I took the criticism aimed my way and turned it into word-play, a glib banter. I rather enjoyed it. Then again I am older and perhaps significantly more resilient than some of the budding writers on here. Regardless, what I was reading - I can only say it took a great amount of self-control not to engage.


In hind-sight, I should have engaged, thus this piece. See, I was surrounded by all this admiration I almost fell victim to the mediocrity. I almost joined the ‘Society’, fearing a back-lash, fearing my being banned from this place which despite its issues, still attracts me, still inspires me.


I fear for the new generation overall. I fear for young/new writers the most. I say to you now, openly ask for criticism. Never accept praise or feel-good accolades on face-value. Fight. Get out of the cocoon of niceness and political correctness and see your work for what it is. Early, botched attempts at a craft many spend a lifetime perfecting and even then, find they have run out of time.


To reviewers and seasoned writers, I say cut the bullshit. Forget that little thingy pushing you to reward where reward is not merited. Help young talent openly or behind the scenes but HELP them. Don’t fear speaking the truth. Truth is good. Criticism is good. Praise is good, when it is merited.


Do any of you honestly KNOW how good your craft is? Do you believe the false niceties and accolades? Is there a part of you- like there is in me - which questions the validity of every ‘review’ you receive? There should be.


Here’s the thing: I had a very early poem sitting unnoticed under the title ‘Spring 2012’. Uninspiring title, right - but that was how I headed all my work on notebooks when I was writing out and about.


What did I do? I changed the title. Suddenly it became the best thing since sliced bread. It got more reviews than any of my other pieces - some of which are far superior. It became a wagon everyone jumped on and gloriously lauded, trying to outdo each other in praise. My somewhat cynical mind watched with amusement. A background in Sales and Marketing comes in handy sometimes…


I played the game, responding with profuse thanks and appreciation in turn. It’s a game. Give nice, receive nice. Do it often enough and you start to believe it’s real. Your work is that good! Is it? Your review is honest and free from the pressure to conform and speak within the PC guidelines! Is it?

© 2016 Elise Anton


Author's Note

Elise Anton
I am really not looking for reviews here. I am looking for honest and open discussion. Am I wrong? Prove it. Am I right? Prove it.

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Well, I've personally never gotten above 95%. That said, I do believe that honest and constructive criticism is vital to improving as a writer, be it as a hobby or aspiration.

But you're right, a lot of comments are just praise and circle jerking. In a way this site is kind of like a massive hugbox. While I do enjoy such comments (its nice to have your ego stroked), I personally prefer comments on what can be improved.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Really? Like my sons say, "Mum, you need to get out more."

Disappointed that the wor.. read more
DDav

5 Years Ago

"....kind of like a massive hugbox" that's outstanding. Ha..
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Isn't it just? Never heard the phrase before, but yeah, outstanding!
Well, you're right however, reviews don't need to be that harsh especially when it comes to reviewing a "bad" piece. Yes, one must be open-minded when someone criticizes your work in such a manner that will make you quit writing. When reviewing, it doesn't solely focus on the negative aspect. What do you intend to do with helping the writer? Encourage him/her. Yes, not everyone of us writes well. I've read some reviews, especially for ones who almost contained discouragement. Do you think you've been helpful to the person?

We need to to review in a balance way. I guess there are some who aren't doing this kind of approach. Yes, there are some who praise a lot. Though, you can't just easily justify their acts.

People who joined here have their different reasons. I guess some might be offended by some of the words you've written however, it's true. Whether we like or hate what we read, it is the truth. It won't change anything, except if you change your way. People will not easily accept the criticisms of others, especially if it's negative. Yes, we may be open-minded however, you cannot deny how you're offended. Pain is essential for learning though, do you think that's always effective?

One must be sensitive. You can't just easily say "stop this crap", one must try to explain it that the writer understands. What I mean is, try to expand your point. Just like in a debate, one must point out the pros and cons, not just tell the writer to quit the story. I believe everyone has a potential to learn. We learn from our mistakes and our first time doesn't always need to be harsh that would leave a trauma in our beings.

Bullying is bad - yes. I love how you taught your kids to respond to the bullies the "and" thingy. Yes, it really is refreshing and fun.

I know you just want the writers, like me to fight for our work. You want us to see the effects of too much praising since it doesn't seem to point out the flaws of our work. And I'm really glad for this writing. It really is informative and it elicits opinions and discussions from others. :)

Yes, Life is a struggle but, do we really need to be harsh when it comes to our reviews? I say, we do it in a balance way. Also, we don't share the same writings styles that others might find it odd or weak. When one reviews, I guess we must consider these possibilities. We must think twice before we speak the "bad" criticism. Instead of saying straight off to the face of the writer that he/she has a lame writing style, bad grammar, etc... why don't we help him/her in a positive way? Yes, point out the flaws however, let us think that not everyone here are good. To be honest, I am not a good writer since I've had some grammatical errors and I'm working out on my style and yes, I need and honest feedback however negative it is but, I would be honest with you that you do that in a positive way: make the tone of your words respectful that I will not have the impression that you're just completely looking at the negative side and not both.

All in all, I do not find this offensive. For me, this is an eye-opener for all of us. Some may find this offensive but I say to you that I don't. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. I really find it helpful. Thanks! :)



Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TheMalady

5 Years Ago

Thanks again. Right now, technology really is helpful but it is only a means. You yourself must impr.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

I look forward to it. Again, valid points regarding taking ownership of and pride in your work. It's.. read more
TheMalady

5 Years Ago

haha, absolutely! That's already helpful! I am always doing that to my reviews and however long the .. read more
I'm not sure why you're on this website but I came here to learn how to be a professional writer. I post work here then move on. I couldn’t care less about the badges and I turned that rating system off a long time ago. The badge system is to act as an incentive to be active on the website. Which I am. I generally give positive reviews for, as I wrote in the profile, we should be encouraging each other here. If I can't find something positive to write about someone's work, I don't make any comments at all.

Last week I told a young man that he should probably be working on short stories instead of the many “novels” he began and abandoned. He didn't receive that well. Hey, that's how it goes. I could have told him the truth, that he is a terrible writer and will probably never achieve any of his goals. But hey, I don't know that. He may become a great writer one day because he never quit. This is not the time to discourage people. I am not the absolute authority on anyone's writing and I don't pretend to be.

Miss Stuitje feels some appreciation towards me because I gave her a very positive review. She has written, in my opinion, one of the best short stories I've read on this site. And I told her so. She has the same goals I do and we have worked out an arrangement to review each other's work privately.

Judging from what went on your page today, I may try to do the same with other writers I've befriended on this website. At least it will be more professional and there won't be any obnoxious trolls.

I have given long critiques about other peoples work, at their request, and have had it thrown back in my face. Basically, you can't win here.

So read my stuff if you like, but from the tone of this page and what went down today, I don't think you are going to be very objective.

Oh, by the way, I can handle criticism. I have two college degrees and have had my share of snotty English professors. I also have many rejection letters from magazines so I know what real editors can do to your ego. And still I haven't quit.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Hi Robert. Firstly thank you for disabling the reply thingy and allowing me to respond directly. I r.. read more
Good essay, outlines the problems of the brash culture and easy writers. Good writing is rare, some are bullies, some brash in criticism, they pay for it. Other honest in feedback, all sorts. If you can give honest feedback without offending that is the best way forward. Avoid childish people, immature.

There is a lot of rubbish writing on here. Here is the thing, a lot of my work is workshopping drafts. Some of it I really like, not everyone agrees with me. I tend to write poetic narrative. The current mode for clever poets is a crossword type enigma that takes some working out. Poets rave about it, does little for me. I tend to write concrete poems, something you can get your teeth into. So some of the poems I thought rubbish actually win awards. So allow for all types of writing, even cliche ridden drivel has it place.

One of the so called great poets of the modern times writes mediocre poetry, it really is mundane and he is a horrible person.

A bully is someone who won't let go, in my day when a guy said in a fight, I've had enough, we always let him go. That isn't enough for many they want to break the spirit, now that is a bully, best to avoid and place on permanent ignore. I've done it, it's the only way.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Hi Frank, thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts on the issues I presented. Much appreciate.. read more
See my profile page. 'nuff said.

Posted 5 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

M. L. F.

5 Years Ago

No problem Elise 😜
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Thank you :)
M. L. F.

5 Years Ago

You're quite welcome😊
Yes, you're right. It's all true. I've been here for years, and know just exactly what your concerns are. If someone is here just to receive warm fuzzies, they can find them aplenty. If you want constructive criticism that facilitates improvement, you can find that, too, but not so easily. It's all about the friends you connect with.Over the years, quite a few have asked me for constructive criticism, and when I complied, they didn't like it. I can't count the number of times I've given an honest review, only to have it blow up in my face. A person who's serious about their writing should appreciate honesty. They might squirm a bit, but they'll be thankful. To avoid conflict, I tend to shy away from bad writing and practice the adage, "If you can't say something good, then say nothing at all". If I know the person well or think they're competent enough to take it, I'll give it to them straight. Nicely, though. We must always practice the golden rule, despite being far away, sitting behind a computer.

Posted 5 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Nigel Newman

5 Years Ago

Elise Hi. I read your piece and was nodding a great deal. I might add, as a sort of aside, receiving.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Hi Nigel, nice to meet you too. Your contribution largely reflects both mine and Samuels. Thanks for.. read more
Nigel Newman

5 Years Ago

Well said - especially like the analysis and logic of the 2nd quote and the humour of the first. I r.. read more
A fellow poet of writerscafe recommended me to read this. And after reading it, I have come to realise that what you're trying to point out here is indeed true upto a certain level. The quality of what you write is never going to be judged by stars or badges you get on a website where you share all your writings with the rest of the world.
My only motto of being here is, to write and share my love of writing with people who want to read and have the time to do so. As a writer that's my only purpose. I don't crave for reviews or appreciation although it feels good when someone appreciates your efforts every now and then. Kinda keeps the fire burning to write more and more. And to write better then before.
I suggest that you write. All these keyboard warriors will grow tired and fade away one day. What you write will live on forever. If you like something that you read, give words of encouragement to the writer. If you didn't feel that good about it, do state your opinions in a genuine manner. That's what I do and I feel everyone else should do. If somebody bullies you, block him/her. As simple as that. You don't want negativity, you shun it upright.
Just my opinions. May vary with yours. Peace out.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

richy

5 Years Ago

watch Blackfish on netflix and then see why a cute penguin can't distract me from the beast for long.. read more
M. L. F.

5 Years Ago

Haha!! scary...
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

I will send you a fluffy cuddly penguin to hug those moments...
I can't remember who recommended that I read this essay, but I'm glad they did. I'm new to this kind of 'share your writing' online community, but I agree with you on many points. I've put some stories up and received much more positive feedback than I expected. I think a lot of people feel like they want to encourage, and I'm totally cool with that. Since I joined the community, the positive feedback that I've received has encouraged me to get more serious about my writing, and I think that's a good thing. I've finished stories that have been half-done for years because I now have someone to share them with. That alone gives this community value to me.

I think the concern about overly-positive praise for 'crap' is a valid one, but I'm not concerned about it personally. I find myself naturally giving more weight to critical feedback versus praise, and I think other developing writers who are serious will as well. It's just natural because you want to get better. Over time, I'll learn which reviewers are honest and constructive and I'll do my best to create a symbiotic relationship with them, helping each other out by being critical and honest. And I think it's totally valid for people who just enjoy writing but don't aspire to be a professional to look to the community for different things than we might. I think the Writer's Cafe could benefit from having some profile setting saying your level of seriousness about writing, so reviewers could know what level of feedback to give.

I can't say too much about the reverse bullies who bully the critics because I'm too new here to have experienced that. I have seen some pretty rude reviews, but I think those people are just a******s. In those cases, I think you're absolutely right that young people need to develop thicker skin, learn to hear the message, not how it is delivered. It's a larger societal issue that your thesis hits on...we're trying so hard to protect young people from getting hurt that we steal from them the chance to learn that what other people say is just their opinion - and you can choose not to care about it.

By the way, your essay gets a 100! You are the best writer I've ever met. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!! :P

Posted 5 Years Ago


Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Thank you Takeshi, glad that you joined the discussion. I am relatively new here myself and it is th.. read more
DDav

5 Years Ago

"I think the Writer's Cafe could benefit from having some profile setting saying your level of serio.. read more
a) Thank you for that first part. I have come to appreciate the effectiveness of monosyllabic answers but I have never employed the 'and?' much. I will put it to good use.

b) I have actually been contemplating quitting this site for a while, mostly for the very reason you describe so well. At first I felt gratified and encouraged but with every gushing review I am increasingly doubting the quality of my work.
I have come across a few people whose feedback is honest and to the point and who have been a major factor in keeping me in this community. Also, I have found one or two jewels which I am very grateful to have found and read.

All in all I agree with you and you have nudged me a little further towards the 'delete account' button. The sad thing: I am at a loss how to find honest reviews for my work now.

Posted 5 Years Ago


DDav

5 Years Ago

"I am at a loss how to find honest reviews for my work now."

Stick around, I bet this.. read more
Lalochezia

5 Years Ago

Elise, thank you for your encouragement; in particular the bit about other website displaying the sa.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Forget the admins... I also belong to NaNoWriMo (November Novel Writing Month) where we are challeng.. read more
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Gee
Morning ma'am.Guess I'm in here as a warrior,a defender of women!!!Thing is the fella I had my spat with gave as good as he got,in fact he was considerably more gifted in the verbal battle.My beef with him was that he was pig s**t rude,and rude I don't do.Looking back,I should have yanked his chain in a playful manner,but easy to dwell on hindsight.However,he humours me greatly when reading his reviews because he tears to pieces what he deems to be shite,which is his right,(I secretly wish he hadn't blocked me now,but hey ho)and he usually backs up his case.
I'm with you on the reviewing,much of which is to receive glowing accolades in return.I read quite a few poems,stories on here,many are total garbage,so review not for fear of offending,which is as bad as reviewing falsely I suppose as the writer will never improve.With regards to my own stuff,I know I'm limited,what I do post means very little,I'd never dream of calling myself a poet or writer because this to me is just a way to while assay time whilst the family are out,sleeping or whatever.(My punctuation is proper shite,sorry).Anyways, enjoyed your truly magnificent,modern masterpiece on the sycophantic leanings of the global wannabe bard and their need to be lauded,praised,put on a pedestal,have petals thrown at their feet and generally loved and adored.And to finish it off the saying I hate most,MY DEAR POET......AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Gee, you lost me in your second sentence. "I'm in here as a warrior, a defender of women!" May have .. read more
Gee

5 Years Ago

Morning,yes tongue in cheek.Wasn't aware a punctuation check was available,will have to have a butch.. read more
Elise Anton

5 Years Ago

Same here buddy.

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Added on February 24, 2016
Last Updated on February 24, 2016
Tags: writing, thoughts, people, self, sharing, fans, followers, bullies, reviews, criticism

Author

Elise Anton
Elise Anton

Australia



About
Hello from downunder! I am one of those people who can just sit and write. It's like breathing for me. I've never shared and never published. It was my thing, my escape, my therapy... I have two so.. more..

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