Teens are lying about being cyberbullied now, or something?

A writer wrote about a predominantly teen issue in a way I found offensive so I wrote a rebuttal. The writer found it and countered, clearly still missing my point.

Because it looks like I have to spell everything out in really plain text, here we go:

Let’s say you write about a web community as an unbiased journalist; if the piece you wrote was an accurate reflection of the community, someone somewhere within the community would have something positive to say about your piece.  Something like, “hi, thanks for writing this!” at least.

But what if ALL the feedback you receive from the community is negative?

Well, then you did something wrong, something got lost in translation. (Did anyone from the 1D Larry community say anything positive about the article? I looked and couldn’t find it.) We’re not talking about one or two trolls, we’re talking everyone had a problem with it.

Further, if feedback from said community uses words like “bullying,” “harassment” or “victimized,” how can you not realize you did something wrong? If it is minors saying it, well, …shit.

Whether you meant to bully or not does not erase the experience thousands of young women said they had. Did thousands of teens (tweens and 20 year olds too) secretly conspire and all agree that article you wrote about them made them feel ashamed of themselves and their internet activities? Was it all a grand conspiracy to accuse a journalist of wrongfully cyberbullying them? No, obviously not. These ideas must have come from somewhere, from somewhere in your post.

The writer of the post in question wrote of her piece, “It explicitly avoided shaming the practice of shipping Harry/Louis.”

If it explicitly “avoided shaming the practice of shipping Harry/Louis,” then why did the people in the community reading it take it that way? Are they just all making it up?

Again, I repeat so it sinks in: Just because you say it isn’t so does not make it so. Just because you said you didn’t bully or shame doesn’t mean anything if thousands of young women are crying about the words you wrote about them. Teens don’t casually accuse journalists of bullying or shaming them, and dismissing and denying their complaints comes off like you don’t respect them. Denying it does not make their trauma, their pain and frustration any less real, either.

It makes you look like you think they are crazy, at best.

Wait, they already think you think they are “crazy”…

Like I mentioned earlier, use of the words “silly,” and “delusional thinking” put the community over the edge (they even changed their Twitter and Tumblr bios to include the word “deluded”). Also “cultish devotion,” referring to “reality” a lot, “crazy” even if it is in quotes, “lies,” “obsessive”, I could go on… It doesn’t matter if these words were used to talk about another ship because you are talking about that ship to bring up the fact that this behavior is nothing new and in fact happens all the time.


I am not in the fandom and I didn’t know what “RPF,” “OTP” or “shipping” was before this article, but I – like others who were hurt by the article – recognized the word “tinhatting.” Tinhatting is recognizable because everyone knows you use that term to mean crazy people.

Now to address some specific blows directed my way:

The writer and her friends are speculating that I didn’t read the writer’s original piece. To this I counter, did you read your own piece? Did you read the comments and the feedback you received?

I actually read the piece more than three times. The first time I read it, it was late at night and it left me feeling really defensive, especially about what I wrote as a teen. I didn’t know about the writer’s background, but I mistook the piece as being slightly homophobic too. This is what I tweeted about it right before I went to bed:

As I thought about it the next morning/early afternoon, I grew angry. “Wait, did that writer just make fun of a bunch of teens?” is basically what I said to myself. I grew angry because I thought about my little brother, and how I don’t want him to grow up in a world where this can happen to him with something he writes online when he is 14 or 15. (ie: be called crazy by a journalist in an article).

The third time I read the piece, after reading the writer’s background and a ton of her previous work, I realized the article’s intention (of showing how fandoms more or less behave the same). But it was too late. By then there were more than a hundred comments from what looked like distraught teens, tweens, and young adults, who apparently had the same reaction I had when I first read the article. Except more so, because many of them are young, emotional and insecure…

I used the word “fantasy” because I showed/sent the article to more than a handful of veteran journalists who write for the Web – some who’ve worked at (or are now working at)  Pulitzer Prize winning publications and some who are twice my age – and almost all of them had no idea what was going on in the article. “Fantasy” is an accessible word, and a word I used to explain what the original article was about after much head scratching on their part. They did understand “tinhatting” though… (I sent the article out because I debated whether or not I should comment given my work history.)

Another reason to use the word “fantasy:” the community is so invested in the Larry ship because it is a sexual thing. The Larry ship and the works of fiction that come out of it, turn fans on. Many of them masturbate to it. (And that’s okay, we’ve all agreed that happens within such fandoms, that is not something we are denying.)

I used the title I used because it is provocative, and IT WAS WHAT THE TEENS WERE SAYING (not the word “fantasy,” but everything else sentiment-wise). The same thing goes for the line about teens viewing the article as telling them to go kill themselves.

For the record, I did not write the post because I am in some ship (but now I am kind of shipping Larry after this whole thing, dammit), or because I care about 1D shipping wars. I wrote the piece because I genuinely do not want it setting a precedent for coverage of minors on the Internet. It is important to contemplate the impact your coverage of minors will have on said minors.

So why again does the writer, on her personal Tumblr, not recognize the impact her article had on the community she just covered? Why does she deny the existence of the distress her article caused? Is it because the people distressed are silly teenagers?

I have other theories too, with the two I am oscillating between: the writer hates 1D’s music so thinks it is okay to mock their fanbase, or, she didn’t realize the power of her words and honestly didn’t think the community would take her piece in the way that it did.

With great power comes great responsibility, Aja!

One Comment on “Teens are lying about being cyberbullied now, or something?”

  1. Reader says:

    “So why again does the writer, on her personal Tumblr, not recognize the impact her article had on the community she just covered?”

    Maybe she saw how much the community she just covered accepts “RPF,” which stands for Real People Fictio…

    …and concluded that even if she did get some things wrong about these Real People then her article would be Fiction about them and therefore acceptable to them in the name of accepting RPF and people who write RPF.

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