I don’t support bullies online. I’ve had enough death threats as an online community manager to have experienced all the different emotions – fear, anger, frustration, impotence and boredom. When I heard Charlotte Dawson had stalked down a woman who had told her to go hang herself on Twitter, had rung the woman at work and her boss, and then was admitted into hospital today…  It’s hard to understand a woman who overreacted – yes overreacted – to a  nutjob stranger on Twitter saying “go hang yourself”. She also retweets abuse sent to her. But here’s the key point: Charlotte Dawson has made a career of  slagging off all and sundry and using her broadcasting power to bully others, calling critics bogans and scrags (see Point 3 below). There’s more to this story than woe is me… And while I’m sorry that Charlotte Dawson has let this drama affect her (we are responsible for when and how we are offended), I (and others like Duncan Riley) think we need to look a little closer at what happens when we meet trolls online.

So for what it’s worth here’s my view and note: I report the world as it is, not as I wish it was. Communities form around negative values as well as positive. Twas ever thus.

1. Social Media: Friend or Stranger?

If Gary even looks at me crossly I burst into tears. His approval means so much to me…. (plus he’s a sucker for a crying female). But an outsider, a stranger I’ve never met, calling me stupid, unattractive or unknowledgeable? Pffft. Please. My family are my world. Some random bloke or chick on Twitter get blocked or removed and it’s over. Done and dusted. Move on now. Friend’s can hurt you. Strangers never should be allowed that close. If you are feeling low, you are vulnerable but having a good day? What do you care about some loser …? And don’t friggin’ retweet them as you are rewarding BAD behaviour.

2. Ignoring doesn’t work?

If the critic keeps going, gets my friends involved, gets a gang involved, then it’s bullying. One criticism is not bullying but sustained effort encouraging others to join in, is cyber bullying. Now I have a range of responses.

NegativeComments in Social Media
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Ignore if you can, sue or have removed if you need to, fight back if you must. But don’t let it get to you. 

3. You get the “community” you deserve

Dawson is in an industry notorious for bullying females. Women’s magazines bully and stalk celebrities openly gossiping and photoshopping lies into the discussion. And we, to our eternal shame, make those shows and magazines the top sellers, with the most eyeballs. But you get the audience you deserve.

Dawson has commented on Twitter before:

“I was reading on Twitter someone saying, ‘What happened to your face – you should sue your surgeon’. I am open about what I have had done and have nothing to hide. I have said I stopped Botox a while ago.

“If you read that stuff all the time, it can erode your self-esteem. And it’s mostly women who attack.

“I do worry about social media. Young, pretty girls (such as Top Model contestants) are really vulnerable to that kind of spite. I do feel really protective of them.” (Daily Telegraph 2011)

But I want to point out that Dawson herself comes from an industry where attacking women is de rigeur – their fashion, their choice of mate, their hairstyle. But it’s ok because they are celebrities, y’know someone who is on telly or in film. And sometimes it gets personal:

And what about the behaviour of Charlotte Dawson who has described a critic of Alex Perry as a “sad attention whore”, a “fame whore”, a “Westie scrag” a “suburban fattie” and a “sad ugly moll.” As executive producer, has Sarah tried to rein Charlotte in at all?

“too true. Enough about the bogan … she’s someone elses nightmare now.”
… I think Cassi’s only going to end up being the poster girl for Sunbury Centrelink.” Charlotte Dawson

(from Melinda Tankard Reist, women’s advocate)

I don’t have the time to list all the “sharp tongued witticisms” that Charlotte Dawson has inflicted over the years suffice to say: It’s hard to understand a woman who overreacted – yes overreacted – to a  nutjob stranger on Twitter saying “go hang yourself”  and then retweets abuse sent to her, while slagging off all and sundry and making a career out of it. EDIT: Brad Kreft NZTV found all the tweets from Charlotte Dawson – interesting view of this woman. Bullying of a ANTM contestant on Alex Perry’s Facebook page by CD. Question: are victims of bullying become bullies themselves – learned behaviour?

It’s never ok to trash someone because they trashed someone else. But human nature is as human nature does. And if you are mean and bitchy, you’ll gather mean and bitchy people around you. Don a flak jacket and get on with it, or change. That simple.
Social Web - Reputation Management Cycles diagram

My tips to you would be: if you take a bitchy voice, expect a bitchy community, ignore strangers and just block them, surround yourself with people who love you and turn the bloody thing off (Facebook, Twitter) if it disrupts your mood.  We can’t teach the next generation if we can’t do it ourselves.