Cyberbullying and Fandom

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Related terms: bullying, cyber stalking, cyberharassment
See also: Dogpiling and Fandom, troll, flame, sockpuppet, wank
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Cyberbullying is an extreme form of trolling in which a particular member of a community is targeted and abused by others. It negatively affects a person in much the same way as real life bullying, leading to depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. It is a growing problem among teenagers who know each other in real life, with phones and social media being used to abuse a victim even while they are physically away from their tormentors.

Cyberbullying is also a problem when the involved parties have no real life contact. In fact, anonymity and lack of consequences may only encourage the bullies. Certain sites, such as 4chan, are well known for actively encouraging vulnerable members of the community to hurt themselves. In recent years, a growing number of suicides caused by cyberbulling have caught the attention of the mainstream media.

Forms of Cyberbullying in Fandom

In fandom, cyberbullying may take such forms as doxing a user (publishing of private information like the real name, address, employer, e-mail addresses or other Social Media profiles that contain private information like Facebook or LinkedIn); TOSing of websites, blogs, and Fanvids; sending anonymous hate messages or death threads or wishing someone to die via anon functions on micro-blogging services like tumblr or curious cat; as well as posting personal chats or messages that were obtained by sneaking in private discussions via sock puppeting in private chat rooms or group chats or Friendslocked entries.

Ganging up to organized dislike videos on youtube or leaving numerous negative feed back or comments on fanwork of the same creator is also a from of cyber bullying.

Cyberbullying is like its offline counter part not trivial and prosecutable by law in most European countries and in some US states.

A recent form of cyberbullying on Tumblr is for aggressors to tell their victims to kill themselves, or to wish death or other forms of severe physical harm on them. This has inspired a wave of backlash and anger from other users, especially when these comments and threats are made towards someone whose "crime" was as minor as shipping a pairing the aggressor didn't approve of.

Harassment of Powers That Be

A rare type of bullying involves the harassing of people of TPTB most common in video gaming fandom.

The Fan Harassment of Jennifer Hepler as well as of ex-Silent Hill game developer Tomm Hulett is a prominent cases:

"I felt like I had a target on me but I'd be told stop worrying about the fans - don't worry, they'll buy it anyway -" I gasp a pretty unprofessional gasp at this point, "- they'll buy anything that says Silent Hill on it, so it's not a problem. I already knew [...] I was targeted for it and I was seen as The Guy on this. [Producer] Devin [Shatsky] had done an interview where he said that he didn't like the Silent Hill one cult stuff, which... you know, you're allowed not to like the Silent Hill one cult stuff, but someone had attributed that to me on a message board: 'Tomm Hulett hates Silent Hill one!" I was like: alright. Not true, but okay.

"But when I saw [a fan-made web-series slating Hulett's contribution to the franchise], I got a really sick feeling - tons of people are going to see this. And it's taking what I already felt bad about and broadcasting it. It's going to be bad.

"And then it was."

Then came the dreadful - and dreadfully broken - Silent Hill HD Collection.

Before the days of community management, Hulett - "as a fan my whole life, I love reading the interviews with the actual people making the games" - was all too willing to talk to press and fans. He'd signed up at my own forum and happily (at least initially) engaged with fans there. Then a small but rabid portion of the fandom fixated on Hulett as the source of all that was wrong with their beloved franchise... and they were desperate to make their disdain heard.

Life after harassment: ex-Silent Hill dev Tomm Hulett speaks out by Vikki Blake. 24/02/2019, eurogamer.net

In the animation community

It has become very popular for fans of animated shows to harass the staff on social media, mainly over shipping concerns. Voltron: Legendary Defender is the worst in this regard, including angry fans leaving harassing, accusatory messages to Lauren Montgomery on Instagram or Twitter.

Steven Universe artist Jesse Zuke was bullied off of Twitter for drawing Lapis Lazuli with Peridot, with accusations of "queerbaiting" from Amethyst/Peridot shippers.

Famous Cases of Cyberbullying

Cases in Fandom

Examples of Suicides Attributed to Cyberbullying

Sam Leeson

In 2008, Sam Leeson, a fan of Emo fashion and music, died by hanging himself after being bullied "because of his style"[1] according to his friends. His classmates and relatives said that he was targeted then bullied online on his Bebo webpage with offensive ridicule and name-calling.

Sam often wore black skinny jeans, showing off his love for Emo. His mother, Sally Cope, commented that he was "quiet and thoughtful with a lot of friends."[2] Leeson's headteacher also commented that "Sam was a popular student and one who was wonderfully creative in his writing and his work." Many of his classmates wore black ties in his memory the week he died.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a "teenager who was bullied by online trolls [then] posted a heartbreaking video on YouTube before killing himself"[3] in 2014. People online bombarded Adam Smith, a young teen with learning difficulties, with harassment and accused him of plagiarizing a short story he put on a website. In response to this harassment, he posted a video to YouTube titled "I'm sorry" where he apologized, but was met with mockery for his speech problems. Then, "days later he was seen crying as he walked to a railway line near his home, where he was hit by a two-carriage train."

Adam was attending collage at the time. Online, he wrote fanfiction for the My Little Pony fandom. He had hopes to own a cafe later on in life.

Miraculous Ladybug Fan

A Spanish-speaking Miraculous Ladybug Fan was bullied and harassed by the fandom for liking the character Lila Rossi. When she committed suicide, her fiance posted on social media saying:

"Hi. This is a little off-topic but... My fiancee yesterday decided to take her l1f3. She suffered harassment by the fandom and its friends since she watched Miraculous Ladybug and was a big fan of Lila Rossi. Leading several months holding it, but despite that, she kept going and always told me she wanted to see Lila in the series. I need support since I didn't expect you to she made that decision, plus she was just one of us who suffer rejection just for following other characters, and look I know, it's just a cartoon to take that ending, but she's sick of it. I hope she can rest now... I ask you to please do not leave bad comments, thank you for your attention." — The fan's fiancé, translated into English[4]

Furth Reading/Meta

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