Hey guys, Rose here.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Soapbox Saturday entry, but it’s been a rather eventful week to say the least,  I have a headache just thinking about the current topic, because…this isn’t an easy topic to write on, but I”m going to give as even a presentation as my nerves can allow on this. I’m shaking at the thought of realizing everything that’s happened and the prejudgments and assuming tones that people have taken on regarding this case.  There are a lot of falsehoods running about and I want to set the record straight from what I’ve personally taken a few hours of my time to dig into what happened and approach it as someone who observed it from the outside of measures.

It might shock a few people at the title and notation, but this is pretty much an apt summary for what happened in the past week.  In this case, the author who cried bully (even threats of rape and sodomy) and it was pretty much the spark which ignited a flame of controversy that not only landed heavily loaded criticisms against an entire book community, but in the citations after the fallout, she laughed off the misunderstanding on a case of “PMS” and quickly left the situation leaving a lot of people shaking and completely wiping herself of any responsibility to what happened.

I have a hard time feeling sympathy for someone who not only had such disregard for so many people and blatantly misconstruing situations, but failing to accept responsibility.  And NO, a quick apology and claims of “PMS” or moodiness or effectively walking away from the situation is not going to help matters.

It’s really NOT funny that in the mix of an misunderstanding that said person proceeds to throw the whole female gender under the bus for things that could’ve been prevented by responsible practice on several levels – if only playing by E.A.R. (I’ll explain this in my respective post).

I’m absolutely livid at this entire measure because it’s a slap in the face to people who are/were:

1. victims of bullying/cyberbullying

2.  victims of sexual violence or harassment or those victim to ACTUAL threats of sexual violence/harassment

3.  concerned about the further complication of bullying and cyberbullying into buzzwords with reduced meanings

4.  concerned about a rift between authors/writers and reviewers/bloggers/readers

5.  concerned members (like myself) at the Goodreads community who are actually people who just want to read books and not engage in any kind of drama whatsoever.

6. people who have their own rating systems to gauge interest in a book within the current rating system, and are subsequently attacked by people who don’t respect the lines of being able to use rating systems personally without fear or retribution from someone who has a stake in the work (in this case, the author).

I don’t think Pippa realizes just how significant the range of people she affected, hurt, and misled by this when she so quickly leaped in and made all of these irresponsible claims about bullying and lack of response in a public venue (the internet is NOT private), and it being GR policy to allow horrible things to happen.

Before I continue further, I’m going to leave a link here as to what bullying IS NOT.  I encourage people to read it before moving on in this article.  While there are some notations I disagree with, I think the majority of it is actually an apt summary of where people are uninformed as to what bullying is.  I would also encourage that people read Emily Bazelon’s “Sticks and Stones” if you haven’t already done so.  It’s not only a really enlightening, emotional, and thoroughly investigated read, but also names numerous TRUSTED resources about bullying.

Granted, no incident of bullying is going to be the same from individual to individual, incident to incident, but it’s important to know that bullying is really contingent on the basis of INTENT and REPETITION.  I cannot stress that enough.

And these things aren’t even that common of an occurrence in my experience on the Goodreads site (though I would say it is an issue that has come to more prominence that needs to be dealt with, and I offer some suggested solutions near the end of this post.)

People – authors especially – I just want to say stop blaming the Goodreads community (or any social network for that matter) for the mistakes that you make.   And don’t make conclusions based on prejudgments that you know absolutely nothing about the terms for.  If you do something wrong, the blame remains with you. Period.  It remains with you until you own up to it and make steps to either make amends to the thing(s) that you did, or take it as a learning experience and recoup responsibly.  You’re far more likely to be respected if you face problems head on and own up to it, rather than projecting your problems and a so called “ruined” career on other people or things that you either don’t understand or aren’t responsible enough to look into with a more careful lens.

And if you are unaware of a situation, please be sure to look into all possible outlets before you jump the gun and make an assumption.  Simply leaping into the fray before seeing what really went on never helps.  I am very surprised at the number of professional authors, even in the past week, who are so quick to make assertions and lack the insight on the danger of making sweeping generalizations on an entire community like Goodreads without considering that it doesn’t compose the majority or the frequency of their claims, nor did their reflections truthfully reflect the actual terms of the situation discussed.

I’m struggling to try to present this in an even manner that calls out this irresponsible behavior, but at the same time proposes constructive solutions as to what can be done about it.  So ladies, gentlemen, I’m going to try to tackle this from the perspective of someone who shelved a book for her own personal reasons…and ended up stumbling onto a can of wiggling worms.

Discovering the Curious Case of Lauren Pippa/Lauren Howard

learningtolovecoverrose
This is the unreleased debut book by Lauren PIppa (a.k.a. Lauren Howard) – “Learning to Love”. It was set to be released in August 2013.  The author has stated that she’s since cancelled the publication of this book.

You guys know that I regularly peruse the Goodreads community as a way to look for books of various genres and peruse recommendations from friends and respected fellow readers. I keep shelves accordingly to express what books I’ve read, what books I want to read, what books I may be interested in but not sure about, and also express what books I won’t be reading/reviewing with a ten foot pole.   I happened to peruse a bunch of New Adult recommended books, and I came across one linked book that had to do with a teacher-student relationship, “Learning to Love”.  At the time, the book was noted to be by “Lauren Howard.”

Here’s the blurb:

Innocence personified, Aimee dreamed of the day she’d meet her Prince Charming… but love at first sight isn’t always as simple as a fairy tale. 

When Aimee discovers that Ezra, the drop-dead gorgeous tattooed hunk that rocked her world, is her new professor, she is forced to make a difficult decision between right and wrong. 

But to Ezra, Aimee is the light in his darkness and he won’t let her go without a fight. 

With the lines of morality starting to blur, can Aimee and Ezra build their relationship on a secret… or will secrets only lead to heartbreak?

– – – – –

The unreleased debut:

A New Adult Contemporary Romance novel recommended for mature readers over the age of 17 due to strong language, sexual situations and themes of erotica, as well as controversial topics.

My first response to the possibility of reading this was “no.”  Not my cuppa.  It’s not so much the designation of it being New Adult or the content of the work (I can handle all of that, and personally speaking, I have been picking up more New Adult novels that I’ve liked in comparison to where I started – but I still have issues with the age group’s heavy cliches and derivative elements).  I said no to this particular work because it’s derivative to the point this work has already been done before.  Note the names of the characters?

BIG Hint.  But don't tell anyone.  Aria wants you to keep it a secret.
BIG Hint. But don’t tell anyone. Aria wants you to keep it a secret.

Yeah, the Pretty Little Liars connection is close.  The teacher’s name is Ezra,  the student’s name is Aimee in the book.  In the PLL series: Teacher is named Ezra,  Student named Aria.     Part of me wanted to think it was an odd coincidence, but I’ve been burned too many times by fan-fiction pulled to publish so…yeah. I’m not so much saying this was the case with this book, but the similarity made me think this might’ve been a heavily derivative work.  I figured it was in my best interest to just say it wasn’t my cuppa and move on.  So I added it to my not my cuppa shelf while on the book page on Goodreads.

But then when looking at the reviews for the book, I saw over 70 5-star reviews making claims of defending the author against “bullying”.    At the time, there were only 5 1-star reviews and one 2-star review along with it.  I’m mentally saying  “Wait…what happened here?”

I’m not one to jump into the foray and prejudge things before I know all the facts.  So I did some digging.  Took me about a couple of hours to get up to speed on some dimensions of what happened.  The can of worms pretty much blew up in my face.

The story that was “sold” by a few widespread articles, including this alleged expose by SALON, was that Lauren Pippa (Howard) was threatened with rape, sodomy and such by reviewers on Goodreads (even implying staff inaction) over asking a simple question. The article quotes:

You don’t necessarily think the world of bookworms would be full of bullies. Readers, after all, are assumed to be a more evolved species, capable of articulating higher sentiments than “You suck.” Well, not always. Just a short time ago, Lauren Howard was gearing up for the release of her self-published debut novel, “Learning to Love,”  a tale in which “love at first sight isn’t always as simple as a fairy tale.” But then the Goodreads crowd reportedly decided to assert its dominance over the fledgling author, and that’s when things changed.

As the 22-year-old self-proclaimed “shopaholic, pop culture junkie, book lover and writer” explained on her blog Tuesday, she has now decided to not release the book, and the “main reason is recent occurrences on the website Goodreads.” She claims that though her book was not yet in the hands of potential reviewers, readers were already giving it two-star reviews. “I asked about this on a Goodreads message board,” she says, “and it was explained to me that people can rate as a way of expressing their interest in the book.” But by then, she writes, she’d triggered the ire of some of the community for questioning it. “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 as a newcomer to the website.” She adds that “I’ve contacted Goodreads directly and nothing has been done because, again, this is acceptable behaviour.”

Something didn’t seem right to me on this from the very beginning tones on this article, because…in the three years I’ve been a part of the Goodreads service, I’ve never known Goodreads staff to not be responsive to the abuse of its TOS, which can be found here.  I’ve had relatively few unpleasant interactions on the site (though I could probably tell you about friends of mine who have been pretty much gut punched.  Most of the time it has been by authors who had a bad reaction to a review or shelf and don’t have a thick skin or the tolerance not to engage.  Other times the abuse has been by users who are fans who go through the critical reviews and bombard people with abusive PMs and comments simply because it’s a different or strongly worded opinion versus their own.   It’s happened enough to where the author/reviewer community’s been strained because over expressing honest, critical opinions, bloggers/reviewers/readers are afraid that new or sensitive authors may berate or target them in personal ways over their rating of said author’s (or even other author’s) books.  Some bloggers have stopped blogging altogether, afraid of such interactions.  

Quite many of the attacking authors are those who do not know the nature of reviews and ratings in their purpose nor how to interact with some degree of emotional distance on a social media community for their professions (and yes, WRITING, is a profession).  There have been quite a few who have been major published authors with best selling titles who have engaged negatively with reviewers just as well as self-published authors, though the stigma seems to settle that “self published authors” are the more likely ones to engage in this behavior.  That statement couldn’t be more false, since it seems to happen among both who, again, lack an understanding on the nature of “reviewing” and the appropriate gauge of professional boundaries in a social media measure.

Very rarely have I seen a reviewer aggressive with an author to the point where the author has been subsequently “bullied” – not saying it doesn’t happen, but it depends on the case-by-case basis of the events and who was involved in the exchange and the frequency and nature of the exchanges.  We could go back and forth on this for days on individual notations, but I’m going to stick to this particular incident for now.  Bear with me.

You guys know how I feel about bullying, threatening other people by their person; simply put, I don’t tolerate it and it gets under my skin. I don’t think anyone should tolerate that kind of behavior, and it should be reported when observed immediately to people who have the power to help.  

My thoughts at the time were that if such shelves were threatening her with rape or sodomy, they should’ve been removed without question. (It’s not what happened, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.)

The keyword in all of this – patience.  I’ve personally reported things to GR staff in the past and they usually got to it within 24-48 hours from what my own experiences have lent reporting abuse of the TOS – and those were in business days.   If something happens on a weekend, it may take until the next business day for something to be addressed (which is what I think happened in this case with a slower response time.)  And I speak from the experience of being a regular reviewer on Goodreads (though my reviewing network actually reaches many other book reviewing communities like BookLikes and Shelfari.)

When looking at the shelves on Goodreads for myself RE: this book – I didn’t see anything at first, but I figured much of the exchange had probably disappeared after the whole scuffle had occurred (I only knew about this in the latter parts of this week, but I sat on my hands because there were a lot of heated exchanges about the issue still going back and forth).

When I started asking around after the dust settled…oh man, let me just say that the Salon article and others got the whole measure wrong.  This whole thing started over a book rating that really had no attachments to it, but was met with criticism from the very get go.   What Pippa did is NOT how you use social media and not how you go about trying to resolve a problem.  Especially when you can misconstrue the whole thing into a huge maelstrom that quickly becomes one misunderstanding after the next and generalizes an entire community of people and even misrepresents the individuals and intentions of those involved.

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Some of you are probably asking “What really happened here?”  Some think it was the author being naive, others believe it was a publicity stunt to get marketing for her book.  And some (like myself) are just wondering what the eff went on. I can’t make a statement as to what Pippa’s motivations were definitively.  But I think Pippa both could’ve been more responsible and more forthcoming about the things that actually happened. What happened wasn’t bullying as much as it was a series of misunderstandings (and grossly irresponsible actions on the author’s part) that turned hostile.  Call it hostile, call it crude, but such things are still NOT termed bullying by such definition.  So there has to be some truth shed on this situation for what it really was. (And yeah, I chose this Aladdin gif just to illustrate an emphasis on truth.  😛 )

The Timeline of Events

Let’s break this down into a timeline.

In sum, Lauren Pippa/Howard had promoted her book by distributing ARC copies of her work.  You would think – “Okay, yeah, so of course she would expect reviews about her work to come out, right?” Especially since it was slated to come out at the end of this month.

I think the earliest point of conflict occurred around August 19th, 2013.  There was a reviewer who left a two star review on the work.  No written review, no comments, just a rating.

Pippa panicked to say the least.

She went to Goodreads Feedback to try to report on the situation, but there was very little to be done considering the review was: 1. a two star rating, 2. had no review attached, and 3.  could’ve been a number of reasons for the rating that weren’t iven.  Goodreads Feedback members tried to tell Lauren these very same measures and how to get help.  I’ve included the screenshot where Pippa created a topic in GR Feedback, but some of her posts were removed either by her own discretion, or by staff where she violated TOS and berated the reviewer in question.  I’ve captured what remained of the respective conversation.

Goodreads Feedback - Suggestions & Questions- Low rating spam-troll accounts SS
This is a screencap I took as of today’s date of the thread that Lauren Pippa created in Goodreads Feedback, accusing the two star reviewer of being a troll/spammer from the get-go. People actually did try to help her, and even Goodreads staff told her whom to contact to get help on the issue. But I don’t know if she ever really took any of the notations/advice given to her seriously because of the fallout that occurred afterward.

She even went to Goodreads librarians to try to get the book removed.

But one thing Pippa did not realize (or didn’t regard) was that Goodreads librarians are NOT Goodreads staff.   They are volunteers that are involved in the maintenance of book data – which includes covers,  book descriptions, and basically making sure the database is maintained for books that may be OOP (out of print) and need to be added in.   I became a Goodreads Librarian shortly around the time I joined because I wanted to help the database (and I might’ve become one because I wanted to add in some of my mother’s romance books from the 70s and 80s – don’t judge me!).

If Pippa had known the TOS and responsibilities in the Goodreads social media community and asked about it without jumping to conclusions, she would’ve learned the following:

1.  Goodreads is like a catalog database for books.  Librarians CANNOT remove books from the database or change vital metadata without reason once they are added, or they will lose librarian privileges.

2.  Rating books without a review attached is within the TOS.  Rating books before they’re released (as are often the case for people who have ARCs) are allowed.   Rating books to express interest or disinterest of a book are allowed.   Reviews that aren’t about the book may be hidden or removed (and the user banned) at the discretion of Goodreads staff on a case-by-case basis.

3. Librarians, again, are not Goodreads staff.  If a review is out of TOS, Pippa could’ve chosen to flag the review as well as any offensive comments and Goodreads would’ve gotten to them in a timely fashion.  Or, even moreso, she could’ve emailed Goodreads staff directly.  And learning these guidelines is just a matter of reading.

She did NOT have to engage the reviewer personally and question the reviewer’s motives for the two star rating. That was her starting an aggressive tactic based on her own previous assumptions.

The reviewer who gave the rating  may not have received an ARC copy of the book,  but could’ve been just rating as per interest of the upcoming release.  If there’s one thing for an author (and readers, mind you) to remember, no two people have the same way of using a rating system, despite its delineations.  It can be used to gauge interest, disinterest, perception of quality, or other dimensions surrounding a work, especially in a system of allowances like Goodreads has, and it’s important to understand that.  In that line, it is up to the READER OF THAT REVIEW to gauge whether that review helps them to determine their interest in a book.  If it works, fine.  If it doesn’t, then he or she doesn’t have to use it and can just move on.

And if anything a review/rating is an assessment of one’s own experience and perception of quality or interest/disinterest in a work.  It’s NOT meant for the author necessarily, nor do ratings in themselves become the hinge point for an author’s career. People will pick up books or not regardless of reviews (review actually help, they rarely hurt, even negative reviews can make people curious enough to read a work.)   There are multiple factors that go into a person picking up a book – I know it’s that way for me.  I judge books on blurbs, covers, word of mouth, themes, opening lines, genres, subgenres…you get the picture – it’s many things.  

I find it hard to understand how people can’t grasp this and make it all about “the review” or “ratings” alone, which are subjective measures that could be used objectively at the reviewer’s discretion.  And on a site like Goodreads where it is meant to be a community that fosters the interactions of readers and their experiences/perceptions of books, you would think that authors would respect the distance and not treat ratings as if it’s the bane of their careers.  On the contrary, and perhaps ironically in this case, attitude can be a significant factor in establishing rapport or intimidating/turning off their audience.

Initial interaction of Pippa and supporters on a Goodreads user's two-star review.
Initial interaction of Pippa, et. al on a Goodreads user’s two-star rating of “Learning to Love”.

Pippa’s post was the first post on the initial reactions. Heated exchanges occurred and prompted people to add Pippa to various “do not read” shelves for her perceived attack on the reviewer.  But it was a couple of shelves in the aftermath of this event that sparked Pippa’s further misconstruing of things.

The actual naming of the shelves in question were: “aggressive male affection in prison” and “sodomy by lawn sculpture.”   The user who had the shelves had them for quite some time before shelving Pippa’s books, according to her account of things, and it had been an inside joke as expressed by the user to communicate books she wasn’t interested in.  The Goodreads user: TinaNicole (note the singular person, not several people) with these shelves made this statement in the aftermath of events:

People may think they’re distasteful and I apologize for that. They’re both inside jokes and were never meant to offend but they are in no way referencing any person. They were, also, both my shelves. It wasn’t several different users.

Nonetheless, Pippa took the shelves as a personal affront and attack.

Pippa took to Twitlonger, posting the following:

LaurensTwitlongerAugust19th

She also took to Tumblr:

laurenstumblrannouncingcancellation

And adamantly kept affirming her claims that the shelves were meant as personal attacks against her, even on Goodreads:

laurenpippacommentary4

And the SALON article, among other media outlets – for what reason that remains to be known, somehow picked up the story and it went viral.   Suffice to say, there were a lot of angry users of Goodreads – reviewers, bloggers, and the like, who were not happy with the portrayals of the Goodreads community at large made by Pippa, nor the inaccuracies in the portrayal of the events that *actually* happened.   There were also heated exchanges and “revenge” ratings of 5-stars set to offset the “bullying” reviews of 1-star.  But what’s interesting in this discrepancy – the fact that Pippa had complained about people rating things before they read them, and well…the sheer number of the supporters who came in to simply rate the book on Pippa’s behalf were doing the thing she was speaking against in the first place.  There are more than 100 5-star ratings on Goodreads for “Learning to Love” as of this date.

And the book is said to never be released.

Heated exchanges of events occurred from people who perceived the measures as “bullying” and those weighing in debated about the shelving, ratings, users, and policies of Goodreads.  Pippa was reached out to by several bestselling authors (who ironically had their own controversies and issues with “targeting” reviewers) – including E.L. James, Jamie McGuire, among others.  But it quickly became a measure that Pippa was becoming a poster child for incidents of “bullying” on Goodreads by people who spoke against the service….when the notations in her posts…well, never happened the way she said they happened.

People called out Pippa on the discrepancies in her story.  Pippa later posted a retraction (now deleted), which is contained in the following:

retractedapologypippa
Image courtesy of Barbara on Goodreads.

But the odd part of all this,  Pippa decided to change her name, come back to Goodreads to request a name change for a book she doesn’t plan on publishing, and…blames the entire event on overreaction, misconstrued details by the media, and…PMS *winces*:

PMSandfollowupretractiongoodreadspippa

In the aftermath, TinaNicole had this to say:

…I’m getting really tired of people telling other people that disagreeing or calling someone out is bullying. I’m tired of hearing how wrong everyone is on both sides. The only comments from the beginning that were in any way abusive were from Lauren’s friends and supporters…

Regular GRs members were NOT getting deleted left and right, nor were any of their comments. The only things getting deleted were what the author herself deleted, the few nasty things from her friends (that are all still evident in others reply posts or ss’s) and the accts Lauren’s supporters opened, that day, to do nothing but five star her book and harass anyone who disagreed with their behavior.

I can’t even count how many comments and discussion threads I’ve read in the last few days where people are screaming for change and oh, the horror of it all but in the next sentence are calling librarians GRs employees and questioning what a shelf is for. Whaaaa?

Its been proven that Lauren, in fact, lied about being threatened with rape, sodomy and murder. Yet, no one seems all that concerned. They’re now latching on to the idea that GRs is an awful place with big meanies who have opinions and actually have gall to voice them without dipping them in sugar first. She left a lot of people with egg on their faces and instead of placing blame where it belongs, firmly on Lauren’s shoulders, they’re switching goal posts.

This whole circus has somehow turned into a way for people to try and put their own standards and morals onto others. I shouldn’t have to keep my opinions to myself because someone may think it’s not nice enough and neither should anyone else.

Everyone keeps coming back to “We should all be nice”. Only problem with that is we all have different ideas as to what qualifies as “nice”.

User JennyJen on Goodreads had interesting thoughts to spare on the situation (quoted in parts):

…Likewise, if someone is doing something wrong on GR, you’re able to flag them and then let the GR staff handle it. The funny thing with this entire situation is that had the author flagged that review/rating, nothing would have been done, because it did not violate any rules. Instead of moving on, as people suggested to her, she took it upon herself to go police and harass the reviewer. Then she went around lying about the fallout.

I understand being upset that someone rated your book with one or two stars before reading it, but I don’t understand:

– attacking the person for it
– calling them a troll
– trying to take them down
– linking them in a group so that people can go and do what exactly?
– ignoring when your friends make heinous comments to them, some actually involving the violence that you cried so loudly about before

I do not understand how it’s okay for an “author” to be running off at the mouth all over the internet and paraphrasing names of shelves so that people will pity her and come and inflate her book with 190+ five-star ratings. That sickens me. It sickens me more that all those people did not take a single moment to actually look into what really happened. Instead, they’ve all cried foul and done exactly that which the author chastised in the very beginning. I don’t see her complaining about any of these five-star ratings. I don’t see anyone saying that that is wrong.

…Everyone in support of the “author” has accepted everything at face value, even though she herself has gone publicly to say that it was all a big misunderstanding and I had PMS and blah blah blah and oh, those sodomy, rape, and death threats? They didn’t actually happen the way I said they did. Rather, they didn’t happen at all. (paraphrasing)

That’s what this is about. That’s what people should focus on. Instead, everyone is harking on a couple of premature ratings As an excuse for their ignorant crusade. Go look at the rating details. I think there are like 10+ one-star ratings and 190+ five-star. WTF. How can anyone take these people seriously when they haven’t bothered to look for any information? All this stuff is easily available for anyone to find and none of these people have even attempted it. Instead, you have a bunch of them saying that they actually saw these threats and that there were so many and from different people. The “author” said they didn’t exist, so how did you see them?

So it somewhat begs the question as to what to make of all of these events.  Since the retraction, Pippa has left the matter, claiming wanting “nothing to do with it.”  But it’s left a lot of people scratching heads as to what happened, why it happened, and what can be done in the aftermath of things.

Honestly,  I have a hard time writing words about my own reactions, but I’m going to make an attempt to reason with this.

My reactions:

Dude….where do I begin?

First of all, I think I’m just going to say that PIppa’s actions were puerile and unprofessional.  That’s me being honest, guys.  She wasn’t just the naive 22 year old writer who stumbled onto a pack of ravenous bullies who poked and prodded at her and wanted to ruin her career.   Lauren Pippa failed to read the Goodreads TOS, she ignored the advice that was given to her, she made all kinds of outlandish claims in social media which were equivalent to “BULLY, BULLY, RAPE THREAT, RAPE THREAT, DANGER, DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!”

And everybody heard her then.

Basically it came across as that scene from Disney’s Pocahontas (I’m including a lot of Disney references in here aren’t I?) where arrows and bayonets are taken up and everyone’s yelling “Savages! Savages!”

But no one really listened or care what actually happened, nor commented on Pippa’s wrongdoing for what it was.  And even when Lauren Pippa posted the retraction and apology, no one heard that, they just heard the battle cries and were quick to impose their own versions of changes (which are pretty much already in place on Goodreads), or attributions on how Goodreads works when really they have no idea how to use the social media system at all or the levels of management it actually has.

And if you’re someone sitting on the sidelines watching all of this fall out (*raises hand*) , it’s enough to drive you bonkers.

Look, I would never say that anyone deserves to be attacked by their person for whatever reason.  That’s inexcusable, and given that Pippa did take offense from the shelves, I understood that.  Even the person who had the shelves understood that as well and made no qualms about the fact that they (at least one of them) were taken down by GR staff.  The other I think TinaNicole took down herself.

What bothered me was the fact that Pippa took her outrage to other social media outlets and proceeded to cry out things in the heat of emotion (or perhaps something else entirely, you be the judge) that weren’t accurate.   You don’t do that as a professional – writer or not.  And granted Pippa may be naive or wet behind the ears, but this whole situation created a darned ripple in a problem that’s been building and buliding over time like a bubble waiting to burst.  All because of a lack of understanding on how Goodreads works and how its users use it.   And all because some authors don’t know how to maintain a sense of distance or choosing their battles.  Some things you just can’t fight or control.

My personal experience: GR isn’t the devil’s abyss or anything of the sort.  How would you explain how hundreds of writers are able to use the site with little to no problems?  How do you explain awesome authors like Karina Halle (who just released a book in this last week) being able to use the service with very few problems and interacting with their awesome readers?  The vast majority of authors and readers who use the service have absolutely NO problems.  And it boils down to knowing how to use social media and be vigilant in your interactions.

And I really don’t understand authors or users signaling out individual people who call out problematic behavior.  Heck, if it’s problematic, people try to speak out about it and some are especially passionate considering the level of attacks that have been launched against them in the past.  I understand that there are some people who are unaware of said attacks, and that might be cause for defense and overreach, but it isn’t that hard to take a step back and play things by E.A.R.

*Evaluate

*Assess

*Respond

Whenever you get into a problematic situation where contentions are high, stop yourself a moment and actually step back from the conversation.  Take a breath, calm down, note what is said and the note the situation for what it is (Evaluate) and try to reason why it’s said and things are happening (Assess).  Then given what you have, act accordingly (respond).  Sometimes the only thing you can do from a situation is walk away – there’s no shame in that.  Sometimes you have pick your battles carefully, even if you’re feeling pressed against the wall in the face of conflict that may put you ill at ease.

There are going to be a lot of people who read this post who have opinions on how to rate books, what measures go into “ruining” an author’s career, where lines are crossed between reader/reviewer and author/writer, but honestly – I don’t believe in the turf war.  I fume regularly at the idea that there’s some kind of division and that the two should never mix.  Heck, I’m an aspiring writer and firm critic/lover of books.  I give my honest opinions on things, sometimes quite sharply, but do it with the intention of elucidating the things I see, read, and interpret. I wear both reader and writer hats, and I have no shame or fear in taking on those roles.  But I know – and have learned for better and worse – that you have to respect other people’s spaces and opinions  and their respective expression.  Some opinions may not sit well with you, but you move forward and dance to the beat of your own drum.  You let the opinions of the person who gives them stand on their own, you learn to have a thick skin in the face of criticism.

Now as for the discussion on bullying, nothing about this situation was an example of bullying, as baffling and unpleasant of an exchange as it may’ve been.  Let’s clear that distinction out right now.  I’m annoyed and tired of people saying that when someone acting in a public sphere  is being called out on taking irresponsible actions, misconstruing situations, and basically throwing other GOOD people under the bus on the basis of assumption, prejudice or ignorance is “bullying.”  That’s not bullying, that taking a person to task for the problematic things they did.  And in this case, Lauren Pippa DID a LOT of things wrong here.  I don’t think she should be berated by her person for doing it, but she sure as heck deserves to be taken to task when it hurts other people, especially a whole community of people on the basis of misconceptions and projected fabrications.  

And the thing about it is, she led other people to think that such things happened to her when really they did not, and she didn’t assertively strike it down when she figured the truth out of the haze of whatever emotion she was acting within.  I don’t know what her motivations were, and it still baffles me in terms of what she did and why she did it.  I’d like to think she wasn’t intentionally leading other people on, but honestly – when someone breaks your trust by the actions they take, it’s hard to rebuild.  The whole passive-aggressiveness of it all really was tell-tale in this whole event, and it caused a lot of problems that could’ve been prevented or mitigated in some way.  But Pippa didn’t assume that responsibility, and it shows her naivete or lack of acceptance about the whole situation.  And I think that’s what has a lot of people, including yours truly – upset about it even in the aftermath because it’s causing problems not only for reviewers and authors who use Goodreads responsibly, but is making mistaken attributes of “bullying” and “trolling” as buzz terms that didn’t apply here. Everything here was a series of chain reactions – one elicited response after another, after another, after another to result in the fall out.  But it was NOT bullying.

The article I noted above on what isn’t bullying had some good notations, but I took issue with it on the level that you can’t always define a specific incident as being bullying unless you take each party involved for the context, intention, and repetition of events.   Those are all key issues.  And until other people learn to stop using it as a buzz term and figure out what it truly entails, it’s going to get misconstrued and then the people who suffer in it when it actually happens  – whether they may be victims of one’s bullying tactics, or the bully who can’t escape the mental triggers that’s causing them to lash out, or the bystanders who don’t always know what to do –  our society is not going to improve on recognizing where it occurs and how to act on it.   Those in its web are going to continue to suffer because people won’t take the time to understand its dimensions and whom it hurts.  Bullying hurts everybody.  Learn not to jump to conclusions and draw assumptions when you don’t know the full story of the things that happen.

With that, I leave the matter here.

Until next entry,

~Rose

Edit: 7/27/2013: In case anyone hasn’t seen these posts, John has some interesting thoughts and also screenshots about what happened in the following posts:

http://darkwriter67.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/reality-on-goodreads-your-mileage-may-vary/

http://darkwriter67.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/addendum-reality-on-goodreads/

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