A Strange Encounter With Social Media….

Tonight I was planning on writing a blog about my recent trip to England and Spain. But something odd has happened and disrupted my plans.

You see, earlier today, I ran into an interesting article, which I posted up on facebook, because I like sharing stories about people being awesome.

The article is worth a read, but I’ll summarize: There was a guy who ran a website for  something called “Revenge Porn.” (Which I’d happily never heard of before this.) Apparently he posted naked pictures of women online and encouraged his followers to harass them, call their employers, and generally make their lives hell. Most of the pictures he used were stolen, faked, or handed over by disgruntled ex-boyfriends.

The article explains how a woman found her daughter’s picture on his website, and after finding out what an asshole he was, engineered his downfall in a serious old testament way. It was some lovely not-one-stone-left-upon-another shit.

Anyway, I posted up the link and wandered away. Not thinking much else about it.

An hour or so later I came back and took at peek at the post. I don’t read my facebook comment threads, but I do occasionally look in on them to make sure nothing is on fire.

And, as chance would have it, things *were* slightly on fire. It wasn’t to the point where people were talking about Hitler yet, but a few folks had made comments along the lines of, “She took nude pictures of herself, but didn’t want anyone to see them? I don’t buy it….”

Then some people were kinda pissed about those comments, and made comments to that effect.

Then other people got defensive, and posted some comments to that effect.

We all know where this ends. It’s a spiral into madness. The dirigible ends up in flames, everyone’s dead, and I’ve lost my hat.

Since any plan where I lose my hat is a bad plan, I sighed and sat down to write a quick post asking people to play nice and behave themselves.

Except… well… my quick post ended up being about 750 words long. Surprising nobody but me.

Once I’d finished writing it I just sat there, disgusted with myself. I knew better than to waste my time with this. Trying to have a productive discussion about a complex social issue on facebook is like trying to build a bridge by throwing rocks into a well.

What’s more, this shit is *dangerous.* People get pissed off when you talk about sexism. And not just the people that think you’re wrong, either. Sometimes the people that agree with 95% of what you say are the ones that go positively incarnadine with rage.

Simply said, writing a post on sexism was not on my agenda for the day. And I knew that in terms of bad ideas, posting it on Facebook ranked somewhere between putting my hand in a fire, and willfully slamming my own dick in a car door.

But I’d already written it. And I hate throwing away something I’ve already written. And it was something that really should be said….

So I posted it. Then I shut down my computer and left for dinner.

Hours later I came home and reluctantly looked online. No one was howling for my blood. I peeked on facebook and saw that in the last 5 hours more people had liked and shared that post than anything else I’d ever written.

And the comments were… well… they were delightful. I read about 150 of them and was not once enraged or disappointed in humanity. The posts were kind and honest and funny and endlessly grateful. People shared their own stories. People were occasionally politely disagreeing.

I stopped reading after 150 comments. I didn’t want to spoil it. It was like a beautiful dream.

Thanks for that, everybody.

If you’d like to read the facebook post, here’s a link.


This entry was posted in holding forth, How to be a Worthwhile Human Being, musings. By Pat30 Responses


  1. Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    Glad to hear that the second facebook post didn’t spawn any drama. As for the website in the linked article, it’s sad that there is a market for such a thing and that its consumers don’t have better things to do with their time than harass other people.
    On a more uplifting note, I’m looking forward to reading the England / Spain trip blog entry, once it’s up :)

  2. Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

    I’m glad for “Teachable Moments” with our host, Mr Rothfuss. I’ve now thought about something that tends to fall into the same black hole as Religion and Politics ~ that which is uncomfortable to think about, talk about and deal with. I hate doing it, and Normally it’s not for the betterment of myself, which makes this one all the better for me. It’s like a little extra “hey, not all uncomfortable topics Have to end badly” motivation to be open for other opportunities. Too bad there’s not someone thoughtful and level-headed about those other 2 topics.

    And it is sad that the anonymity of the internet has enabled (encouraged?) the kind of behavior. I’ve been online for a bit over 20 years now and have seen my fair share of ‘Internet Tough Guy’ acts in BBS, usenet, email listservs and forums (I’ve stopped from moving onto unsocial media), but this was all news to me. Everything I’ve seen has just been someone being an ass simply because there wasn’t another person there to demonstrate cause and effect, mouth off -> get punched. This is so many power worse, it’s just nearly unfathomable. *sigh*

  3. christie
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 8:38 AM | Permalink

    Well said.

    I have a 16 year old daughter. It is concerning that many boys repeatedly badger girls for a “pic” (understatement). And there is only one kind of “pic” that they want, it is assumed in the request.

    Daughter : “He won’t leave me alone. He just keeps asking for a pic”
    Me: “So send him one, you have some cute ones”
    Daughter : “No…a “pic”. And he won’t leave me alone about it. I keep telling him “no” but all weekend he won’t stop.

    This is not isolated and the boys will threaten to break up with girls among other things. It has almost become an almost “normal” interaction. I’ve heard of this beginning as young as 7th grade, and the “pic”s are often shared and passed on.

    The sexual harassment that is almost “normal” in high school is also a concern.

    I have heard when a man says “no”, it is the end of the discussion. When a woman says “no”, it is the beginning of the negotiation.

    By the way, it is possible to lock the camera on your teenager’s smart phones. It can also give them “an easy out” and stop the badgering.

    Thanks for the link to the article, I will read it now. I have heard of this practice and look forward to “old testament” justice. I think any unauthorized posting of pictures is wrong. No posts without permission.

    • christie
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

      I hope my post didn’t come across as “stirring the pot”. I’m hopeful people can play nice online.

      Online and texting are interesting ways to communicate. It’s difficult to “read” the emotion correctly and easy to react without thinking on the human being you are interacting with.

      Thanks Pat.

      • christie
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

        Thinking *of* the human being you are interacting with.

        I will hide now.

        • Steve MC
          Posted November 25, 2013 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

          My reaction is nothing but compassion for you and your daughter.

          Never knew the state of such things, and any guy who’d demand such a pic doesn’t value her for who she is and can’t be trusted not to pass it around, or post it all over as soon as they break up.

          • slemay2003
            Posted November 27, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

            well said

  4. ali rahemtulla
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    I always thought of it as “Don’t abuse people. Don’t discriminate.” That pretty much seems to be it. Anyone who disagrees with the fundamentals of that is most likely a sexist. Still, nice to hear 150 people speaking rationally. Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BABY PAT AND SARAH! And Oot too.

  5. pentjak
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    I think most forms of REAL hate and discrimination are just people getting angry because they can’t deal with their fear. Fear of something that’s different.. fear that that different thing will become normal and then your life will change.. fear for the future and things they can’t control.

    People blaming victims falls into that last category. Setting aside the evil and mentally unstable, these people are trying to convince themselves that if they just avoid these behaviors then they (or their kids or people they care about) can avoid being victims themselves. If that’s not true, if they can’t do something themselves to avoid the horrific shit that sometimes just happens to people, then the world becomes a much scarier place for them. They are not brave enough to accept that reality and that manifests in this victim-blaming behavior.

    It’s easy to delude yourself with fear. You’ll find lots of people cheering you on, patting you on the back and telling you how right you are. It’s much harder to be brave. JK Rowling summed it up well, “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right… and what is easy.” Ok the original quote didn’t have ellipses but damnit it should have. ;)

    • Dominic
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Permalink

      You make it sound like it is impossible to avoid bad situations, and that any talk about what steps people can take is victim blaming. I think there are situations where there are steps the victim could have taken to avoid being a victim, and pointing out and understanding these steps is not saying it’s the victim’s fault (except in the most literal and non condemning version of that word).

      For example, someone who has naked pictures of themselves stolen from their computer. They could have prevented that by not taking the pictures. If you are scared of someone having naked pictures of you, don’t allow any naked pictures to be taken. This does not mean that you are to blame if the pictures are stolen, it just means there are steps you could have taken to avoid that.

      The part of your post that led me to believe that you think that you cannot avoid bad situations is:

      “People blaming victims falls into that last category. Setting aside the evil and mentally unstable, these people are trying to convince themselves that if they just avoid these behaviors then they (or their kids or people they care about) can avoid being victims themselves. If that’s not true, if they can’t do something themselves to avoid the horrific shit that sometimes just happens to people, then the world becomes a much scarier place for them. They are not brave enough to accept that reality and that manifests in this victim-blaming behavior.”

  6. Robo
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Permalink

    In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to discuss any delicate subject without people getting incensed. Every issue is polarizing. Every time you don’t align or agree with them, they instantly feel like you’re invalidating them or “taking something away from them.” Few people are open to honest discussions where they can change their minds. Confirmation bias sadly seems to be the status quo.

    I dunno. I could be wrong.

  7. kdculb
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Permalink
    • Bartb11
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

      COOOOLLLL! I have some great-nephews who will LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! Thanks for sharing this link.

  8. einhorn
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

    I read the post and loved it.

    But were I really had to laugh was when you mentioned that things *were* slightly on fire and that they weren’t talking about Hitler yet,…
    because that’s exactly the case in a German speaking country… Whenever someone makes a post about Austrians or Germans, people start to discuss and end up talking about Hitler. Really annoying.

    That happens mainly in youtube comments.

    So I guess that means I should stop reading youtube comments and start to highlight my evening with reading the comments on your post instead.

    Thanks :D

    • neminem
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

      Clearly you haven’t seen enough of the internet. That’s not just people talking about Germans, nor does it by any means require a German-speaking country. It tends to happen eventually in *any* argument about *anything* with *anyone*. There’s even a term for it: Godwin’s Law. Patrick presumably knew that, that’s why Hitler was specifically mentioned.

      • Einhorn
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 3:57 AM | Permalink

        I have to admit that I have never heard about this “Godwin’s Law”. I was rather referring to a kind of insults like “You’re dumb because Hitler was born in your country!” But I suppose those are also covered by the law. However, I’m quite positive that the majority of these other people (who come up with Nazi insults in German-speaking countries) haven’t heard about it either. I’ll guess I’ll have to spread the word, especially the part with “the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.” Genius :D

        But, as this hasn’t anything to do with Pat’s blog nor with his superb books I don’t wanna spoil this wonderful thread :p

        And I’m curious about what happend in the UK and Spain :D

  9. Anne MacLachlan
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

    Pat, it delights me to no end that one of my favourite authors not talks sense about gender issues online, but uses Girl Genius quotes to make his point. Well-played, sir :)

    • arachnid
      Posted November 26, 2013 at 5:22 AM | Permalink

      I came here to say this. It warms the cockles of my heart to hear you quoting one of my _other_ favorite creations.

    • Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
      Posted November 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Permalink

      My comment was going to make roughly this point anyway, so I’ll just leave it in the box with the other ones. It’s always pleasant when someone I admire for their work also meshes comfortable with my pre-existing moral values.

      • Adriana
        Posted May 12, 2020 at 12:46 AM | Permalink

        I was looking for a book and I ended up reading an amazing post about a day by dad issue. I’m from Mexico and something that people says often here is: if she does slut stuff she is beginning to be treated as one.
        It’s annoying when people forgets that we all are human beings and we deserve respect. It’s from a small criteria to place everyone in one box and use only one pair of eyes to see the world and judge it.
        I love post like yours, post that invites people to use their mind and ask questions. And invitation to see the grays on a black and withe picture.

        Thanks so much for sharing.

        Sorry if my English sucks, I express my self better in Spanish.

        Stay safe Pat,


  10. neminem
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

    Do I want to read it? Does the pope shit in the woods? I mean, obviously what I *really* want to read is the 3rd book in your series, but barring that, if you write something and post it on the internet, obviously I want to read it :p.

    And yeah, that is a great response. I am kind of impressed that it didn’t end with people metaphorically murdering each other, though, because as you said, that is just what happens. (GIFT and all.)

  11. Steve MC
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 5:54 PM | Permalink

    Such a strong woman to stand up like that.

    Thanks for the link and especially your post. The ability to lay things out clear, instead of slamming or blaming, is rare. But it works ’cause it pulls everyone up.

  12. SporkTastic
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 2:19 AM | Permalink

    Thank you, Pat, for being the person that you are and sharing that person with the rest of us.

  13. AlistairM
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

    After reading this blog update the words revenge porn kept going round my head and has somehow got tangled up with Jaws: The Revenge.

    Now an entirely NSFW movie poster has formed a clear image in my head and I can’t seem to shift it.

  14. Posted November 26, 2013 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    You know, I rarely check my facebook myself but I was sick yesterday and ended up catching that post. I didn’t participate in any of the stuff going on, but you know, I did evaluate my personal response in the situation.

    While in this case, I did have empathy for the woman presented in the article and I didn’t see anything wrong with what they had done at all. No big thing to have naked pictures of yourself, hell in the article I read some of them were only documenting weight loss, something I’ve been doing myself now for 6 months and got a little nervous about.
    But I know that in other cases, I’ve definitely shown a lack of empathy for other woman and your post sorta highlighted, at least for me, that I DO have a bit of prejudice response to people of my own gender in certain circumstances, especially when those circumstances involve sex and emotions.
    Hard thing to admit, but it’s good to read different perspectives so you (as in me) grow more enlightened and even though you weren’t really addressing me in this instance, I could see how it could be addressed to me in others.
    Good food for thought.

  15. ced
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

    You need an “Achievement Unlocked!” cartoon for this! Maybe… Internet Fire Marshall. Or Facebook Bringer of Peace. Something illustrating this new superpower…

    I really did love what you wrote, and the thoughtful comments from your readers, so I hope I’m not out of place asking if you could spawn similar dialogue on a different (but not too different) topic…

    ’cause, well, a LOT of people are REALLY down on Orson Scott Card right now. And I know that he’s a religious conservative who’s against gay marriage and doesn’t particularly like Obama and has a whole column which on your blog would be labeled “shit I shouldn’t talk about” and he even broke the Hitler rule, and a lot of people are filled with righteous anger at that. But you clearly are able to still respect and understand people you disagree with, (kind-of like a Speaker, you might say) and you also do real research on this stuff, and I’m guessing this whole thing is pretty high on your radar, right? I for one learned about Name of the Wind from OSC’s blog, and I remember when the two of you did an as-you-went Deathly Hallows review together, so… in my mind at least there’s a connection between you.

    So I’m sure you really disagree with OSC on these issues, but… I can’t believe he’s the hateful person he’s being made out to be. And I think it’d mean a lot if our most respected fantasy giant used his flame dowsing powers to bring a little civility back into the discussion.

    Or maybe you’ll say he deserves exactly what he’s getting — if that’s your conclusion, I want to know that too, because you’ve earned my trust on this sort of thing.

    Not to add *more* stuff to your plate or anything. Although a full plate is somehow appropriate for Thanksgiving…

  16. Daate
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

    This is wonderful, and I’m so grateful for it (this post and the one on FB.) I’ve had to deal with so much victim-blaming in my life, and the sad part is how deeply it wears you down—to the point where the stamina required to combat even a little bit of it can really drain your remaining emotional resources. I know my circumstances are different than a lot of people’s so there has been more reason for this sort of fatigue, but it makes me all the more grateful for posts like these, by loving men who respect women as entire beings. Hopefully they’ll be a beacon for other men, teaching them that there is nothing manly or strong about dehumanizing women in any way. Thank you so much, Mr. Rothfuss.

  17. Soren
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

    *And willfully slamming my own dick in the car door*
    Please, do a new Humor Nobel and give it to this guy. I laughed a lot, and I still laugh when I see it.

  18. AmishElvis
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    Since any plan where I lose my hat is a bad plan…

    Yay! A Girl Genius reference!

  19. darlinkaty
    Posted December 3, 2013 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

    I shared it. Then remembered my resolution to not post anything political on facebook and took it down.
    But only because I get so very sad that people that I love will ‘like’ a picture of my carved pumpkin but won’t ‘like’ something truly important.
    Anyway, thanks for being brave.

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