Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dear Sailing Forum Cyber Bully

Dear Sailing Forum Cyber Bully,

Yes you. You know I mean you. You hang out on the forums and like to pounce on the noobs and the figjams, the naive and the bloviators, the lame and the weak. You delight in showing off your knowledge, your wit, your ability to coin a snappy insult. You are the master of the put-down and the jeer. You play to the gallery and love it when all the other bullies pile on to the same victim.

It feels good doesn't it? I know. I've done my share of making fun of some of the pretentious, know-all, self-important idiots who post on those forums. There's a special sadistic pleasure in crafting a carefully phrased put-down to one of these fools.

But wait. There's a real person with real feelings behind that screen name. Have you ever thought about what impact your sarcastic remark will have on that person? You don't know who they are, what they are like, what's going on in their life right now.

Maybe the bozo that you called a "retard" is really some 12-year-old kid in special education? Maybe the fool with the lame question that you called "gay" is some teenager struggling with his sexual identity in a homophobic fundamentalist religious family who preach to him that homosexuality is a mortal sin? Maybe the guy with self-important delusions whose balloon you love to burst is suffering from some real mental illness and has just lost his job, his wife and his home?

Still feel so good about being a bully?

Well, just consider this. There have been several reports in the last few months of teenagers who committed suicide after suffering from various varieties of "internet harassment". How would you like to have that on your conscience?

You see, no matter how pompous, ignorant, lame or obnoxious a poster on a forum may appear to be, you have no idea who that person really is, what is going on in their life right now, or what their mental condition is. If they are suffering from clinical depression do you want to be the one responsible for pushing them over the edge?

Have you ever stopped to think that the folk on these forums who seem to be the most weird, the most delusional, or the most pathetic are actually the ones that may be suffering from a real mental illness? If you and the other bullies stick the knife into one of these sorry souls then is it possible that you may push them into taking some drastic action? Suicide? Going postal? Shooting up the local mall?

And if you are tempted to be one of the many cyber bullies pouring scorn on a certain sailor attempting to spend 1000 Days at Sea, have you paused to consider that his obvious weirdness may be the sign of mental instability, that he is now facing two years alone at sea without his former sailing companion, and that adding to the pressures on him may not be the wisest move? Do you want to be responsible for causing another Donald Crowhurst tragedy?

Just my two pennorth. Feel free to bully me in the comments. I can take it.



EVK4 said...

I assume you're talking about Doublereef/tillerman/daniel taylor? That's a hard one, he seems to invite the bullying.

But what I hate most is that as the dogpile grows, people start using "we" instead of "I" as they identify themselves with the pack. Happened in the 1000days thread too. I guess it helps them assert superiority.

Team Gherkin said...

I keep right out of that $#it. Right out of it.

You're a good man, Tillerman, for bringing $#it like this up that keeps happening, to the public forum. Thank you.

Mal :)

bonnie said...

Adam T. had put up a post about "Deep Water" & I'm just gonna lift my own comment from there -

Loved that movie. I'd been familiar with the story but I thought they did such a good job of bringing it back to life. Gave me shivers and not of the me-timbers arrr variety. With all the extreme expedition madness that seems to be so prevalent these days, I actually thought there were some really relevant lessons for today in there.

Sometimes look at all the crazy people out there doing things that just don't look like fun & wonder whether any of them found themselves backed into something that on second, third or fourth thought they might really rather not do because they'd accepted sponsorship.

Once a person is somebody else's dime, seems like they might start feeling obligated.

Just rambling....

I wasn't only thinking of Reid when I said that, (although I've said my piece on the Reid/SA business & you know I'm with you on this one, hear hear) - there's this increasing trend among professional sea kayakers to always be doing big, dangerous expeditions. Some of 'em are definitely still doing it 'cause they love it, but as the trips get longer & more arduous & more people are getting hurt (or dying, as Andrew McCauley did in the Tasman Sea last year) you really start wondering whether there isn't some sense of HAVING to do it sneaking in. Sponsors put pressure on the sponsored (is that a word), but at least accepting sponsorship is a purely voluntary choice. Not much choice in the cyberbully pack attack.

Interesting thing about sea kayak forums - usually the dogpile waits until the person is already dead (or injured, or at rescued from hair-raising situation) before they pile on. Still depressing to watch people's Monday-morning quarterbacking when somebody's died, but at least you know that the hostility didn't play a role in the choices that person made.

Brian said...

Hmmm... So implying that some guy sailing alone for 1000 days might be mentally ill is OK???

Just turning your post slightly sideways.

JP said...

I agree - and that sort of behaviour also discourages those learning.

In the end it makes a sour note that harms the forum in general.

Tillerman said...

No Edward, I wasn't thinking of the doublereef/ doublebeef/ tillerman/ tillertard scenario because (a) I am pretty sure that the author or authors of doublebeef have a shrewd idea of the real identity and character of their target and (b) I consider doublebeef to a very funny and clever parody of doublereef (so clever that I at first thought it was actually a self parody) and that's different from some of the vicious name-calling and insults on the forums that I would call bullying.

Brian - good point. I realized that I was treading a fine line by raising the question that some of the victims of bullying could be vulnerable because they may be mentally unstable. But I was only saying some of them may be, not that any particular one is. Perhaps it was a mistake to mention one current victim.

EVK4 said...

Doublebeef is written by someone who posts with his real name, BJ Porter, of Rhode Island coincidentally. It is a very good parody. On the CA forums there is a good deal of bullying but Daniel Taylor (uses his real name too) does bring it on himself.

Sailing Anarchy is the sickest of the sailing forums, you just have to know what not to bother reading and you get some incredible insights. But if you get dragged into some of it...whoohoo, watch out.

Joe said...

Good post old man. I made fun of Reid in reference to a Blackadder episode when he went to sea and ran out of drinking water. Day 300: ran out of water, started drinking urine.

I agree with Edward, SA is the worst. Some of the bullies seem to spend endless hours online writing their "knowledgeable" commentary. One has to wonder, when do they ever go sailing?

bonnie said...


I'm more wondering if he's got enough thread.

tillerman said...

I've been thinking about this whole "the victim brings it on himself" thing.

Part of me agrees with it. Hell, whenever I've been tempted to dump on somebody in a forum, of course he deserved it.

On the other hand the statement has the same smell as that hoary old one about how a rape victim "had it coming to her".

Maybe I should write another letter to "Dear Cyber Bullying Victims" advising them on how not to "invite" the bullying?

Regatta Dog said...

I agree with a lot of what you say regarding cyberbullies, but I think that a distinction should be drawn between that and what's happened with 1000 days. When someone uses the internet to solicit donations based on grandiose and unattainable claims and also solicits coverage in the press, there should be a different standard applied. He's made himself a public figure.

That some people on the internet have documented some less than flattering issues from his past and pointed out some major inconsistencies between his goals and what is actually attainable shouldn't be considered bullying.

There's a huge difference between kids ganging up on another kid on line and bloggers dispelling myths and presenting facts about a self proclaimed professional sailor and adventurer.

The former is cruel, and the later is providing a balance to the 1000 days marketing/packaging efforts, which allows people a chance to see the whole picture before hitting the PayPal button on his site.

I enjoy visiting your site. Good luck with your 100 days at sea.

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