I rarely get on Goodreads. When I do, it’s to update what books I want to read or already have read. Very occasionally, if I’m uncertain about a book I want to read, I’ll check the book’s star rating and read a few reviews on Goodreads. That’s pretty much it. So when I heard about the Stop the GR Bullies site, my curiosity was piqued.
I’d never stumbled across any bullying, but I also knew my use of Goodreads was limited. I went over onto the site and browsed through its articles. At first, I skipped around, reading some of the screenshots of Twitter comments, Goodreads comments, and apparently a few blog comments as well. Then I went through and followed a few links (yeah, I was doing some serious procrastination in regards to revising my novel) and read those discussion threads.
Here are my thoughts: Yes, some of the screenshots of comments made were unpleasant. Many of the comments made in the linked discussion threads resembled large flame wars as well. Here’s the thing though: Reviewers have a right to say whatever they please about a book. They also have a right to say whatever they please about the author as well.
It isn’t necessarily classy to say the author is an idiot and should go DIAF for writing such a horrible book (this example is purely made-up), and I’ll probably skip over that review and look for one that feels more reliable. But people have been saying crazy shit about other people since the beginning of time. People hate, with or without reason.
Do I approve of personal attacks or bullying? Hell no, I don’t.
While the Stop the GR Bullies does cite some unsavory behavior, the worst is perpetrated by the creators of the site itself. In this case, it’s less about reviewers versus authors and more about people handling situations poorly. You may disagree with me, but I believe authors should not respond to reviews.
It’s art. Everyone interprets art differently. There will be people who love your book and people who loathe every single aspect about it. Yes, it hurts to find out someone hated your book, but resist the urge to “explain” why they misinterpreted the one scene that caused them to dislike the book. It’s all about interpretation. Everyone’s viewpoint is colored with their own life experiences. As an artist, we aren’t supposed to explain our work. We create and then let others interpret it. Be it for better or worse.
A good example of things turning sour from people deciding to respond to a review can be found here. More on the situation here and here. Rebecca is my friend and one of my critique partners. She is both an author and a reviewer. She posted a review of an e-book. It was fair and honest and entirely her own opinion. Unfortunately, she was also attacked by many friends of the author for posting her review.
The door swings both ways. Just as there very well may be some authors out there being harassed, stalked, and publicly insulted, there are also reviewers out there suffering the same treatment from authors and those authors’ friends.
Finally, but definitely not least, you can’t combat bullying with bullying. I don’t know if the people targeted on the Stop the GR Bullies site are actually bullying authors or not. What I do know is that the site is enforcing its own brand of bullying. There is personal information posted on the site, including: full names, where they live, names of family members, locations of day jobs, and even daily routines and how to find them.
I’m not sure how listing all of this personal information was meant to help solve any potential problems of online behavior. I find it scary, however. I think a line was crossed and things have been taken too far. Maybe these people haven’t been nice online. I don’t know any of them and I’m not going to judge. But their personal lives have been invaded in a very real and dangerous manner. There are unbalanced people out in the world. What if someone takes enough offense to what’s been said online to decide to track this person down (using all the handy information provided on the Stop the GR Bullies site) and murder them and their family? Think I’m off-base? Think again. Or for a more recent example of people discovering an online person’s place of residence and threatening them, go here.
What is your stance on this? Any of it. I’m interested in what others think about this. Keeping in mind that this has proven to be such an incendiary topic in the past on the internet, I would ask that no specific names or fingers be pointed in the comments. I want intelligent discussion, not insults.
Edit: And as feared, this stuff is being taken too far. It’s disgusting. I’m just hoping no one gets physically harmed, because it’s pretty obvious who ever is behind this is mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous.