Don’t call me a bully

28 May

Last night I publicly accused someone of stealing one of my tweets. What I didn’t mention at the time is that I had seen six other examples of the same thing—tweets that were tweaked in minor ways but that ultimately were too similar to the originals to be accidental. This person has deleted the other offending tweets, which means I have no “proof,” as it were. So hey, take my word for it, or don’t.

To those who have said I am overreacting, I have to disagree. As many have pointed out, we all share ideas with one another on Twitter. We borrow from our favorite tweeters, sometimes subconsciously and sometimes as an homage. If someone wants to riff on something I’ve posted, I’m not going to call him or her out. That’s not plagiarism, in my mind. But I have a hard time believing anyone can read a tweet, wait a month, and tweet something that is exactly the same with one or two words changed. Again, I’m not only referring to my tweet, but to several others I compared with the originals.

But enough about that. I’m done talking about this person. If you feel like I’m off my rocker, that’s your prerogative, and if you agree with me, you can proceed as you see fit. I am, on the other hand, really bothered that I’ve been labeled a “bully” because of this. I have an incredibly difficult time standing up for myself—something I’m working to change—and it sucks that my attempt to right a wrong, to reclaim credit for my work, is somehow being construed as bullying.

As much as I appreciate the public consciousness about bullying, I’m resentful of the fact that “bully” has become a meaningless catch-all term. What began as a campaign in response to the rash of young queer people killing themselves has been co-opted by the mainstream. Of course, straight people get bullied, too, and all forms of bullying are wrong. But let’s call a spade a spade, and not get caught up in a buzz word without appreciating the connotation.

I don’t talk about being bullied often, mostly because I find enough other mundane shit to complain about. And I’ve lived a pretty positive life for a chubby gay Jew. So I’ll be brief. Here is what it means to be bullied: Being called a “faggot” all throughout middle school and high school. Being mocked for your inability to catch a ball, or to run a mile in the right amount of time. Having anonymous people on the internet call you a “fat fuck with no friends.” Getting laughed at because you wore the wrong clothes. And your hairstyle is dated. And sometimes you don’t know how to talk without stammering.

Being assertive is not the same thing as being a bully, and frankly, I’m pissed off that anyone would accuse me of that. I make an effort to be nice to as many people as I can. I’m far from perfect, and I can certainly be an asshole, but I would never go out of my way to make someone feel worse about who he or she is. The only criticism I lodged against the aforementioned tweeter was based on plagiarism—behavior that is universally regarded as rather shitty, and that can easily be corrected. (It’s simple: stop stealing!)

I make mistakes. I say the wrong things. And at the end of the day, I am an insecure ball of neuroses who’s honestly just trying to do his best to not fuck it up. If I’ve wronged you, feel free to let me know. But don’t call me a bully. That’s one thing I know I’m not.

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9 Responses to “Don’t call me a bully”

  1. Kerry May 28, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I agree. Criticizing someone is not the same as bullying and calling it that seriously diminishes what the victims of actual bullying go through.

  2. jbenick May 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I just started following you a few weeks ago, but can say that I do not think of you as the bullying type. If anyone took a minute to read your recent blog post about how you are working on standing up for yourself, they might realize that you are far from a bully. Don’t let this discourage you in your quest to stand up for yourself. People might be taken by surprise by your new-found courage and they might get angry and critical of you as a result, but that’s their problem. I also agree with you that ‘bullying’ is overused. I think the same with the word ‘hate’ lately. Just because someone doesn’t agree with someone else doesn’t mean that they hate them and if they call someone out on something, it doesn’t make them a bully. Take ease…

  3. Julie May 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    This same thing happened to me — I called out a person who has tons of followers for blantantly stealing a tweet (after having starred some of my stuff on Favstar).
    But then afterwards, I was left feeling bad — because she denied it.
    The whole thing left me feeling like I had done something wrong — for saying something. This is the way of the world, I fear.

  4. heather p. May 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I really, really like you. I just started following you, idk why, some retweet or ff from somebody. The first thing of yours I read was about feeling guilty about killing a spider, and that was when I knew I would relate to you and enjoy your humor. When you posted the “drama” post, I thought, “well, that sucks for him, but glad he can stand up for himself.” Not-“what a bully!”. Just my thoughts…from one who’s been bullied…

  5. Katie May 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Good for you for standing up for yourself. Claiming a tweet as your own is NOT the same as retweeting and it’s not fair to the original writer!

  6. Gr3g0r May 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    I agree with a previous commenter who essentially said that “being bullied” and “getting called out on shitty behavior” are not the same thing. That substitution is simply a cop-out in order for the offender to be able to play the victim. You did the right thing by simply bringing it out (i.e. standing up for yourself/your work).

    Love your posts on io9. Keep up the good work (whether people are stealing it or not).

  7. Kelly May 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    It’s insane that people can’t tell the difference between bullying and assertiveness.
    My tweets are so out there that this is something I’ve chosen to let go of, the only time I ever mention a tweet of mine being either blatantly stolen or re-worded is when I have 3+ people email or @ me about the offending person- and their timeline is just a long series of ‘steals’
    Twitter is dumb. First world problem.

    I think you absolutely did the right thing and I’m proud that you did it. Given the offender has 5x the followers that you do, and you have mutual friends – it takes guts to stand up for what’s yours. So, bravo for that.

  8. Robyn May 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Anyone who calls you a bully for standing up for yourself is the bully. Don’t take everything people say to heart. There are too many idiots out there. There’s a wikepedia for martians for god’s sake.’Nuf said.

  9. blacklisted May 30, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Do you know about @ThiefPolice? I don’t actually know if it’s real so I can’t call this a recommendation, it just came up on my Twitter’s “Who to follow.” That account leads to this Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Thief-Police/137471312983746?sk=info

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