Bullet Proof? Not so much.


Some people think the internet makes us bullet-proof. You can fire off any insult or thread and it won’t hurt anyone.
The sad truth is that we’re none of us bullet-proof. Not by a long shot.

Bullying isn’t a big problem in blogging. It sometimes feels like a big problem but that’s because bullies shout a bit louder than the rest of us. Nevertheless, it’s a real problem.

When a powerful, popular blogger calls someone a ‘twat’ on Twitter for expressing an opinion on their post; when they take time to send someone an email telling them to get a life and get some therapy; when their friends reply to those abusive Tweets with a LOL or a snigger, it’s bullying, pure and simple.

And it’s not okay. I don’t much care if you’re angry or upset or you feel somehow you’re entitled to have your say.

As adults, we’re responsible for how our words and actions might be received, in the virtual and the physical world. By all means be critical, passionate and even angry. Let’s never make the mistake of thinking disagreement and debate are dirty words. But let’s always remember that the moment heated debate becomes personal abuse, we’ve crossed a line.  

When  you’re a target of this kind of bullying it’s almost impossible to ignore. But what you have to try and remember (and believe me, I know it’s not easy) is that it’s never about you. It’s all about them. Nobody successful, happy or strong-minded takes time out of their day to do the virtual equivalent of running up to a stranger in the street and spitting in their face.

These are people with issues. After all, they could easily un-follow you, or not read your blog. But something inside compels them to keep reading, to keep looking for reasons to be upset enough to call you names, to post hateful comments in public, or to send heartless emails in private.

I don’t want to care about this. I consider it a personal weakness that I’ve had entire days, sometimes weeks ruined by someone’s heartless words on the Internet. But like I said, we’re none of us bullet-proof.

There will be people reading this post right now rolling their eyes. They’re probably about to send a snarky Tweet about me to one of their friends.

Before you click send, though, just take a moment to ask yourself why you’re online now. Why you love the Internet. I would bet that it’s something to do with the Internet’s ability to bring people together, to share ideas and make new connections. To write about your experiences and relive them through the eyes of your readers and their comments.

Why not focus on that, instead?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Aly
    24th October 2010 / 6:42 pm

    I didn’t realise it got that bad.I saw the ShhhBlogger blog and blocked them following me on Twitter but I didn’t know to what extent it had gone.As I said on Liz Jarvis’s blog I have never encountered this kind of behaviour before and I don’t just read parenting blogs.I really can’t believe it happens really, not with adults who are bringing up children.I like your new header by the way.

  2. 24th October 2010 / 6:44 pm

    Sadly I think your words are going to fall on deaf ears. Here’s to hoping.

  3. 24th October 2010 / 6:50 pm

    I tend to agree, sadly, but yes, let’s hope.

  4. 24th October 2010 / 6:50 pm

    Well, there is that. Which is why I never post about the X-Factor.

  5. 24th October 2010 / 7:10 pm

    Disagreeing with someone doesn’t have to result in ad hominem attack and I think that’s something a lot of people could do with learning. Me included 🙂

  6. Bushbb
    24th October 2010 / 8:38 pm

    I hope this bullying calms down and we can all get back to blogging away – somehow I dont think thats going to happen in the near future 🙁

  7. 24th October 2010 / 7:57 pm

    I agree with every word Sally. It is perfectly possible to disagree and to respect the person you disagree with.

  8. Livi
    24th October 2010 / 9:25 pm

    Totally agree with what you’ve said. There seems to be a lot of it happening at the moment for some reason. But sadly as Lindy said, I think it’s going to fall on deaf ears. Those doing the bullying believe themselves to be 100% in the right

  9. 24th October 2010 / 8:38 pm

    Brilliant post. I’ve had name calling and stuff in other parts of t’Internet and tried to remain reflective about it. I normally take a break if it happens. Just to remind what is really important – like the stuff that goes on in real life.

  10. 24th October 2010 / 9:26 pm

    Something like 8 years ago, before there even were blogs, some friends of mine and I became victims of a “troll” – and victims we were, because we worried about it, interacted with it, tried to stop it and to fix it and let ourselves be threatened by it.
    It went away, mostly as we (now a bunch of bloggers who love each other in real life too now and have had our spats but those 8 years of blog history have also taught us an awful lot, such as when to save in draft or when in fact to press delete!)all changed a bit and are, ahem, pushing 40 years old or even more. The 6th formers of mummy blogging perhaps 😉 (Or the remedial class? 😉 )
    But I do remember, it hurt and it was horrible and the spats between friends hurt even more (I believe I actually had a significant blog row with someone over a piano once… wtf??!?!?) but it all seems laughably daft now. We once had toddlers and thought we knew lots, now we have impending teens and dead children and parents who are desperately sick and siblings who have died horribly and painfully in front of us – and all the spatty daftness seems like a long time ago – small and silly.
    This too shall pass, as they say.
    But having been a victim of bullying at school, I could no more wash it off as unimportant than I would if it was happening to one of my kids.
    I like your blog Sally, it’s one of a relative few on the “mummy blog” circuit (3 I think) that I have read over this summer, the worst summer I have ever had. And I’ve seen, fortunately at a distance, some of what has happened to you – and it makes me want to post up, in some places on the web, the blog post I wrote announcing the death of my son and say “put that in your pipe and mummy blog it!”. In the hope it might make some people see sense. I haven’t, because I fear quite honestly that they’d come over to flame the mother of a dead baby for daring to snort derisively at it all and upset my fragile equilibrium still more. (Shall we see if they do?)
    All of which sounds terribly patronising and trite and blech – but what I really want to say is, I hope that at some point soon it all shrinks back into a “wtf was all that???” place and hurts all the people it has hurt much less in the corner of the net which mummy blogging is and that those of you who write and write well and do some good and are nice to people and, crucially from my point of view, make people laugh and bring some joy into the day, recover and get your smile back.
    And who the hell knows how this will read when I press send. Okay, I hope.

  11. 24th October 2010 / 9:34 pm

    Don’t think I did’t notice you posted posh words in two places tonight.
    Show off.
    (Erm, that might be a personal attack, actually. Oops.)

  12. 24th October 2010 / 9:34 pm

    Thanks, I wish more people felt the same but I think many, many people think respect means never disagreeing, and an unfortunate few seem unable to distinguish between “I don’t agree” and “I hate you”.

  13. 24th October 2010 / 9:35 pm

    Jeez, I hope so. I just want it all to stop, it’s seemed endless these past few months.

  14. 24th October 2010 / 9:35 pm

    Yes, I’m lucky that ‘real’ life has been going great while online life has been, well, less great. So it’s provided a bit of balance and relief to the online nastiness.

  15. 24th October 2010 / 9:37 pm

    It’s hard because honestly? I don’t think anyone is ever 100% right or wrong. Well, except Hitler, probably. And a few other people.
    But in most stories, everyone could have behaved a little better, everyone could have been a little kinder, a little more thoughtful.
    Perhaps that’s part of what makes bullies who they are – the complete inability to see anyone else’s point of view.

  16. 24th October 2010 / 9:39 pm

    Hopefully now it’s all out there, thanks to Nikki, that’ll be the end of it.

  17. 24th October 2010 / 9:40 pm

    Oh Merry, thanks for commenting.
    I’ve read your blog this year and wept as you shared the stories of what your family has gone through, and remembered that ultimately what matters is family, and the people we love, no matter what, and those who love us the same way. Your blog is a great gift to many families, I’m sure.
    Of course, next to that almost anything seems insignificant, but online slights and rumours particularly so. Having lost people I love, I know that normal life marches on regardless of the ‘big’ things, and we naturally worry about the little stuff again soon enough. But it passes, and it’s not the end of the world, and I can’t imagine wasting six months of my life carrying on a feud about anything that happens on the Internet – you’re right, it just doesn’t matter THAT much.

  18. 24th October 2010 / 10:07 pm

    Really hope that I didn’t come across as seeming to say that only’ quantifyably big matters’ because you are right, the relatively small things just hurt masses. Like paper cuts. Especially if people squirt lemon juice at you.
    Thank you for having taken the time to reply and also for reading over at mine – the internet can be a curious place but all of us here have been held up by the kindness of strangers this year.
    It would be worth a lot if everyone remembered that no one is ever remembered kindly for cruelness, but a thoughtful comment can quite literally save a soul and is never forgotten. And that what you do will eventually come right back at ya.
    Keep breathing 🙂

  19. Emma
    24th October 2010 / 11:13 pm

    You rock
    I like you Miss W , You are a winner in my eyes! 😉

  20. 25th October 2010 / 12:50 am

    I agree with such a lot of what you say. I think that day-to-day the little things matter, and that’s part of life. I always felt after losing my brother that to stop worrying about my hair or my friends or my favourite TV shows would be to stop part of my life, and there’s no point in that.
    But yes, we should remember there are bigger issues than whatever it was that has spurred this latest round of nasty comments and jibes.

  21. 25th October 2010 / 3:47 am

    Pah! I just don’t understand and all this has left a very bitter taste in my mouth. I have had my blog for a couple of years or so, though relatively new to the mummy blog scene, though if honest have always felt a little uncomfortable with it, like I have never fitted in, like it is not really my bag. But I wanted to give it a go, and so there was little olde me, ending up on the tots 100 and oficially it seemed I was a mummy blogger, I am Ms neutral in these sorts of things, bland I know, though do feel like handing back in my mummy blogger badge sometime soon.
    Hope whoever is involved can all hug and make up. Life is too darn short.

  22. Aly
    25th October 2010 / 4:45 am

    Up and until I read this last night I thought I knew what you were on about.So when two minutes later I read another post which explained the whole Orlando Six, people dropping out of the MADS etc.I had no idea any of this had gone on as it was the holidays and spent it with my kids so wasn’t on-line much.So I feel a bit of an idiot mentioning Liz now.It makes sense now why I got unfollowed on Twitter by a lot of people over the Summer and why my Tweets to them still get ignored.I probably may have seemed to have been stirring things up but I have been oblivious to anything.

  23. 25th October 2010 / 9:53 am

    Tsk. A sense of humour can land you in hot water, is my experience.

  24. 25th October 2010 / 9:54 am

    I agree. I would much rather have never talked about it, and I’ve been saying that for the past 6 months. It’s never what I wanted – I don’t think anyone comes out of a spat looking good, me included.
    What I think I’ve learned is that situations should be dealt with immediately and openly, and perhaps with a little more willingness to forgive.

  25. 25th October 2010 / 9:56 am

    The thing is, this isn’t a post about any specific incident – just things I’ve learned from my own experience, sure, but also from watching other spats and talking to other bloggers who have been bullied and attacked online. It’s certainly not a situation that’s unique to me.

  26. 25th October 2010 / 11:13 am

    As I spend too much of my time knitting and being pregnant, I’ve missed most of this…but just wanted to say, I like the new header…very Tim Burtonesque…(sorry if that’s not what you were going for, but I really like it).

  27. 25th October 2010 / 11:36 am

    Great post, I wish people would just play nice. x

  28. 25th October 2010 / 12:00 pm

    That is *EXACTLY* what I was going for, thanks!!!

  29. 25th October 2010 / 4:56 pm

    I think people reckon saying horrible things on the internet don’t hurt, or don’t count in the real world. It is no wonder that some people who started blogging this year (me included) got totally bemused and felt a bit ‘left out. You write an intelligent well-written blog. I don’t know you personally and would never judge you so I can just enjoy what you write, or choose to ignore it. I also think we should feel free to debate more. It is hard to disagree when all the comments seem very personal and cuddly!

  30. 25th October 2010 / 8:01 pm

    Pretty colours!
    And you’re right of course. I missed the whole thing, but it must have been horrible for the victim.

  31. 25th October 2010 / 9:13 pm

    You had them first sal, you’re always first in my book :p

  32. 25th October 2010 / 9:29 pm

    Hi Sally, I think this is the trouble with the internet. In the olden days (you know before blogging) if someone had a bad time in the papers we’d say “well it’s just tomorrow’s fish and chips paper”. Now the internet makes everything look so much more permanent, so maybe you have to think well, this time tomorrow it will just be on page 48 of Google when you search for something odd.
    Best wishes Sally, this too shall pass.

  33. 25th October 2010 / 10:50 pm

    I hope this all calms down and we can all get on with just admiring each others blogs and posting encouraging comments. I totally agree with you sally and find it very off putting as a new blogger that people react this way when jealous of other bloggers

  34. 26th October 2010 / 12:19 am

    Hi Mary
    For what it’s worth, I blog for me and my own reasons. I don’t have feuds and I don’t have enemies. I continue to enjoy the blogs I like to read and live my life. What someone else chooses to do with their finite time on planet earth is pretty much their problem!

  35. 26th October 2010 / 12:21 am

    Hi Suzie
    Yes, I do think it’s important we remember that although many of us are parents and have that in common, we’re also very different men and women with different experiences and vastly different perspectives – and bringing those differences to a respectful debate can only ever be a good thing. That’s what I reckon, at any rate. And I’m always right, after all 😉

  36. 26th October 2010 / 12:23 am

    Yes, I think what’s scary about abuse on the Internet is that depending on what someone types into a search engine, it might not be old news. It could be something that follows someone around for years, and causes real, lasting harm. I think that’s why we all need to be a bit more mindful of our words and actions…
    But, yes, the good stuff almost always outweighs the bad

  37. 26th October 2010 / 12:24 am

    As my good friend Jen says to me regularly: envy doesn’t look good on anyone – and she’s right!

  38. 26th October 2010 / 5:13 pm

    Well, most of this passed me by though I have caught the gist of it.I’ve not come across any nastiness personally and I was pretty horrified to see what’s been going on. I really don’t understand it. I’m a mum. I blog (though I’m not entirely sure why!) Not sure if that makes me a ‘mummy blogger’. I don’t really fit into any particular niche – I’m thinking now that this is a good thing. Presumably I won’t end up treading on someone’s toes. I love blogging and ‘meeting’ people. I find it a great source of inspiration and support. It’s very sad that stuff that shouldn’t even happen in the playground is making it’s way around the blogosphere. I don’t know any of the blogs which have been mentioned and I don’t tweet so don’t know what went on there. But at the end of the day we need to support each other. Being a mum is a tough job!

  39. Gary Flood
    26th October 2010 / 5:26 pm

    Right. This is Sally’s ex husband commenting on here for I am sure will be the first and only time. Time for a deep breath here and I want you all to stop emotionally beating each other up – or WORSE, threatening to.
    Fact: Sally and I had a horrific, terrible divorce that was very horrible, expensive and disruptive.
    Fact: many times over the past three years she’s made my life very, very difficult, especially around access to my child (in my view) and over money.
    Fact: I have no reason to be on her side.
    BUT why am I having to hear constantly how upset she is at this mad bitchy world that from my simple male point of view should be about parents bloody helping each other out?
    My ex wife is a very intelligent, skilled business person, she’s an UNBELIEVABLY good mother to our child, she works all the hours God sends to make a happy home for our girl. She is not an axe murderer, horrible person, duplicitous bitch. If she was, I’d say so – I don’t give a fuck.
    Fact: Sally had lots of bumps around the time of our divorce and a few things slipped financially. Big fucking deal. It was three years ago.
    Sorry – I am steamed up here. But take it from me, as someone who could rubbish Sally all day long, I am saying she’s a lovely person, she’s a great mummy, I am proud to say I was married to her, she’s a better writer, business person, life manager, film critic and all round Mensch than I am.
    For God’s sake, grow the fuck up half of you, stop being emotionally incontinent, let other people do their thing.
    Sally did NOT ask me to post this, she did NOT vet this, she did NOT ask me to say anything.
    Leave her alone.
    Think my time here is done. Have a good day – and play with your bloody kids instead of dicking about online all day.
    Peace and Love
    Gary xx

  40. 26th October 2010 / 6:40 pm

    Just wanted to pop back and respond to Gary’s comment. I agree that Sally is fab (even though I’ve never met her). I’m very new to her blog but so far I’m loving it. Hope you don’t think that I’m trying to bully her with my comment?? I was attempting to offer support, as I think all of us are on this post.
    Tilly :o)

  41. More Than Just a Mother
    26th October 2010 / 7:41 pm

    Gary – you rock!

  42. Vic
    26th October 2010 / 7:49 pm

    I’m seriously considering hiding behind the sofa with chocolate, ice cream and beer until this all blows over. You’re welcome to join me.

  43. 27th October 2010 / 9:08 am

    Ice cream? Chocolate? Beer? Where didn’t you say so *pitches up to hide behind Vic’s sofa

  44. Vegemitevix
    27th October 2010 / 10:53 pm

    I just have to add my 2p in here. Gary mate, well done. You’ve balls and what you just did there has certainly earnt respect from me.