It’s a strange, strange cyber world

Last night, reading the Guardian article by author Kathleen Hale I was upset by the content. In short the author was given a bad review by a book blogger who hid behind a false identity.  The blogger engaged with the author on twitter which led to a chain of events.  I can understand how Kathleen Hale got caught up in this, I am certain that I would have responded exactly as she did, even if it was a mistake to do so.  Cliff and I discussed the article & Goodreads comments and how we had both encountered nasty characters on the internet in the past. Our mutual feeling is that there are many people out there who are nothings in the real world but cause great hurt and damage behind the safety of their online persona.

About 6 years ago I was an admin on the Facebook page of a new political party. I made a mistake (deleting some comments) and apologised. I then had a night from hell when a group of people got the scent of blood and attacked me as a pack. The following day I had a miscarriage. I have always wondered if the enormous stress and distress of that evening contributed to the loss of my baby.

More recently I read an article about a woman who drove over a smash & grabber.  I was not unduly upset by the article but the racist, hateful bile expressed in the comments section provoked a response from me, leading to the pack of commenters turning their venom on me.   I wished that I could meet those people who hide behind alias identities (I commented using my real name).  I wanted to see them face to face.  I wanted them to see me as a fellow human.  They assassinated my character without knowing me or how wrong they were about me.  I wished that they could understand who I am.  Why did I care?  I don’t know.  I only know that I want to be understood and pathetically I want to be liked.

After reading the article I went onto Goodreads, I have not heard of Kathleen Hale before.  I looked up the book ‘No One Else Can Have You’ by Kathleen Hale, referred to in the article.   The comments sickened me.  Kathleen Hale did no physical harm to the reviewer ‘Blythe Harris.’  All that she did was drive to her house (and not even meet or confront her), she did telephone ‘Blythe Harris’ and establish that the reviewer who claimed that she used her real identity was not telling the truth.  Sorry I don’t see a real crime here.  People are now giving her book a 1 star rating without reading it.

There are countless good people sitting behind computers but the internet has a sewer system where small-minded, cowardly individuals can elevate themselves.  False personas such as ‘Blythe Harris’ can be created and hidden behind.  They don’t have the balls to fight clean.

Let he who has never acted on a crazy impulse throw the first stone.  I understand how ‘Blythe Harris’ got under Kathleen Hale’s skin.  I understand what drove her to stalk her critic.  I really understand the urge to rip the mask from a phantom ‘enemy’.  I understand the desire to transfer an unreal interaction to the world of reality.

I believe that reviews should be honest and I have given some books a 1 star rating.  Oh gee, I really hope that Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t track me down, I’m deeply afraid of a man who could think up the stuff in American Psycho.  I guess I’m lucky that James Joyce isn’t around to take me up on my criticism of Ulysses.  Don’t even get me started on 50 Shades.

Do I have a point?  Yes I have a few.

  1. Cyber bullying causes real hurt in real life to real people.
  2. Those who spew toxic sludge from behind anonymity are lower than shark shit.
  3. As the author retrospectively realised, it is not worth engaging with online critics, even when baited.

I am now curious to read ‘No one else can have you’ to form an opinion on the book not the author.

Regarding ‘Blythe Harris’, Cliff and I agree that through using expletives in her initial review she showed a lack of intellect.  In case I sound like a goody-two-shoes let me tell you that I can have the mouth of a sailor at times and my husband still claims that I taught him to swear.  However when reading a book review I expect the writer to have a good enough grasp of language to articulate their thoughts on an intelligent level.


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  1. Excellent post. So sorry that you had to be attacked online and cause you so much stress that may have resulted in a miscarriage. Cyber bullying is by far worse than real life bullying, because the bullies hide behind anonymity and also because you get attacked just because you have a different opinion to the next person. I have also found that many online anti-bully lobbyists are bigger bullies than the ones they are fighting against. If you don’t agree with their opinions or ideas then you are shunned and are not part of the in-crowd – like the plastics in the Mean Girls. As soon as I have a chance I will read the links in your post to get the full story.

    • Thank you Dianne, I’m already nervous about having posted this. Interested to know your thoughts on the story when you have read the links.

      • Wow, Sula, that is quite a story, but proof that the people behind the awful comments and bullying online usually have very deep issues and cannot face confrontation head on. I avoid comment sections in news articles, because people are so full of hatred and aggression. It can bring you so down and your stress levels up.
        I also get why the author stalked Blythe Harris and agree with the whole profanity thing to. If you want to be taken seriously then do not swear. I can also swear like a trooper, if I am angry, but to review a book using expletives – not on.Yes authors can be given negative reviews, but then respect that others won’t have the same opinion. Bullies are in reality nothing and they do it to cover up their own insecurities and problems. The online world has just opened it up to a whole new level of bullying; jealousy and aggression. Like in your post about a Handbag worth more than a life – people will condemn violence with violence and aggression. They seem to become monsters behind their computer screens. Respect each other’s opinions and respect that we will all see an incident differently. Good on you for posting both this post and the other one.

  2. Well said and an excellent post! I think we will one day have to equip our kids on cyber bullying. From my side, really – I just can not stand people just being negative.

  3. I am so sorry about your miscarriage. That must have been awful, and I am so sorry you were attacked like that. I used to keep my blog a secret but I think it’s better all round for me to be open about it now.

    • I think that keeping identity from a blog is not a bad thing, particularly when we post about our kids. So long as we are not slandering anyone

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