You know, I think some people need to look up the actual definition of bullying.
The American Psychological Association defines bullying as follows:
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.
The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.
Let’s dissect that.
Intentional and repeated: That means for an action to be “bullying” the person doing it isn’t just speaking their mind and walking away. They aren’t talking to friends and getting overheard. This person wants to hurt the victim and does that repeatedly.
Do you know what doesn’t fit that definition? Writing a review.
When someone writes a review, they are usually writing it for their friends. It’s the equivalent of stopping in the hall on the way to the break room and saying, “Wow, I read this book this weekend and it really sucked.”
A person might do that because the book sucked. They also might exaggerate the sheer depth of the suckitude to amuse their friends or be funny or even to get attention. There’s no intentional harm to the author present.
However, once people move onto review sites, it’s a little different because the authors can haunt the halls and eavesdrop. God knows I do. So the people in the hallway are different now, but that doesn’t change the conversation or the reason for the conversation. I can say a book sucks with no harm in my heart for the author.
But let’s step back. We can’t look inside a reviewer’s head, so maybe there are sadistic reviewers out there who type out blistering reviews with the intent to harm the author. First, y’all suck as sadists because if you want to hurt someone, writing a review is a pretty lame way to engage in a little pain for pleasure.
However, we have another problem. Bullying is a repeated behavior that causes injury or discomfort. Repeated. As in more than once. I’m pretty sure, but a review is one. And yeah, you then have comments, but the only time I’ve seen comments get heated and people start throwing around words with actual intent to cause harm, it’s because both sides got in there and started instigating.
That means that the second people get in there and demand apologies and blame reviewers for bringing about the end of the civilized world, they are part of the problem. They did something to “cause” the bullying, which means that by definition, it’s no longer bullying.
It’s a public pissing contest.
All that said, I do understand that bad reviews hurt. I’ve had reviews that tore into me for being sick, for being misogynistic, for stereotyping gay people (dude, I am gay), and worst of all, for being boring. Ouch. Yeah, I’m weird, but I’d rather be called misogynistic than boring. By the way, I like to think I’m not either.
I even had a fellow author I share a publishing house with tear into me for writing a story that was nothing more than a PR stunt. Um, my publisher asked for a piece of PR, and it was never intended as a stand-alone story, only as a game piece in a scavenger hunt. I hate that it’s even listed on Goodreads when I never “published” it.
I’ve also had people get reviews so wrong that they misstate the characters’ ages, the events in the book, and even get the names of the main characters wrong.
None of these people set out to intentionally cause me harm. They spoke their mind. That’s not bullying. Bullying would be hunting me down and every time I post on LiveJournal or Facebook, telling me how much I suck. Bullying would be posting hateful words that tried to hurt me over and over when I’ve not engaged them. Bullying would be despicable behavior aimed at me.
Reviews aren’t aimed at me. What’s more, I can turn them off. No one is following me around the internet trying to get in my face. I can escape, whereas bullying victims can’t. Reviews exist in three or four prominent sites (which is a tiny portion of the internet), and I can enjoy a rich online experience without ever seeing those words if I choose.
Now I’m way too nosy, so I will always eavesdrop; however, if I hear something I don’t like, whose fault is that?