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Five things I learned from taking on a bully

So, I took on a cyberbully last week. It was a graphic designer whom I’d had skirmishes with before, but this time I got fed up. When posts showed up on my timeline bashing veterans, and suggesting that I’m not a disabled veteran “because I’m not in a wheelchair or missing an arm or leg” it was the last straw. I went into full attack mode.

What I learned from the experience, and what you’ll find out if you go head-to-head with a bully:

  1. Taking on a bully is like engaging in a wrestling match with a pig. You are going to quickly become covered with mud from head to toe. And, the pig is going to love it. You have given her the attention she craves, and your reaction has validated her existence.
  2. The bully is probably going to drag you down to her level, and then beat you with experience. Chances are, the bully’s tirades in “The Rockin’ Romance Readers and ‘riters Realm” Facebook group aren’t her first rodeo. In all likelihood, she’s been bullying, harassing and hating since the first grade. If you think you’re going to deliver a quick knockout punch, you’re most likely wrong.
  3. The bully probably won’t just back down. She’s not used to being stood up to (my bully certainly wasn’t) and her first knee-jerk reaction will be to scream “THIS ISN’T FAIR!” If this were the playground in grade school, the bully would express some outrage, but realize that she might actually have to fight, and might make a quick exit. However, this is social media. Now the bully probably has a slew of followers who will truly believe that “this isn’t fair.” These types will follow their fearless leader blindly, taking up the fight on her behalf without even checking facts, in effect becoming deputy bullies themselves. Before long, they’re all screaming about how “unfair” you are, and that you’re a bully yourself, for standing up for yourself.
  4. To the detached observer, it will be difficult to determine who’s the bully/drama queen. Because of points one and two, you’ve inevitably had to come down to, or near, the bully’s level. You’ll be vilified for standing up for yourself. If you are a fan of professional football, you’ve undoubtedly seen numerous instances in which a player gets penalized fifteen yards for “unsportsmanlike conduct” for striking another player or knocking them to the ground in front of 60,000 people. What’s almost always true, and what the referee rarely sees, is that the first player–the supposed “victim”–initiated things by taking a sneaky “cheap shot” or trying to rip the other player’s helmet off. Same thing holds true when you retaliate against a cyberbully.
  5. It’s probably a lose/lose proposition. Ignoring a bully sometimes causes her to get bored and go away. Sometimes it doesn’t though. (My bully wants me out of the book world and has tried desperately to blacklist me from it, and hasn’t stopped in three years.) Do nothing, and you could continue to get dragged through the mud. Several times a month, I get notifications from friends, “Hey, did you know that [my bully’s name] is telling everyone [insert despicable false allegation] about you?”  Stand up for yourself and fight back, and you subject yourself to the first four points here… now you’re an active part of the “book world drama” that everyone knows and hates. And everyone will notice–not least of all, the bully who started the ball rolling, and will now sit back with a smug “see, I told you so!”

So, what should you do if you’re confronted by a cyberbully? I’m not saying you should never stand up for yourself. Ignoring is generally going to be the best course of action, at least at first, and the aggressor may indeed become bored with you and move on to someone else. If she doesn’t, then you will have to decide how to proceed. You’ll have to weigh your actions carefully, and be guided by your own core values in this case.


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