Recently I encountered something online I was not prepared for at all… simply because I shared my opinion on Facebook in response to a thread. There was a large group of adults who did not agree with me.
For three days I was attacked, ridiculed and bullied online. By adults. Because my views were different.
Often when we think of cyberbullying we think of middle school or high school aged kids. We think of the movie Mean Girls. I know for me, grown adults are not what enter my mind. This situation went so far that these grown adults shared my address online… in a post that was on the verge of being viral here in a hyper-targeted area not far from our house.
A decent amount of my time running this website is spent online in many different social media communities. Until last week, I have never been a part of something so foul on Facebook.
Let me share with you what happened, how far it went and how it finally came to a stop. I hope we all learn from this; how to recognize and and prevent it, and how to stop it dead in it’s tracks. We have to be the example for our children.
You know how Facebook works, right? Someone in your friend list comments or likes something and their activity shows up in your feed. One of my brothers had commented on something that a local business owner had posted. His activity showed up in my feed which promoted me to read what this business owner had posted.
A local restaurant owner was upset because someone had walked a ticket at his establishment. He took a handful of still-shots from his surveillance cameras of the person eating in his restaurant and posted them on his business Facebook page which has a following of 2,500 people. Clear images of this person entering, eating and leaving were shared for everyone to see. He very condescendingly stated in the post that he figured said person had just forgotten to pay the twelve dollar and something cent tab and whenever this person had a minute they could just swing on by and take care of the ticket as it would be waiting. He also stated that said person appeared to be inebriated, implying that maybe this is why the person forgot to pay. He went on to state that IHOP offers free pancakes on a specific day of the week and if this person wanted free pancakes that is where they could find them.
Stealing is 100% wrong. That said, this business owner’s actions were 100% unprofessional and just tacky, in my opinion. Completely unwise from a business perspective for so many reasons. He was damaging his reputation and stood to lose many more customers than to gain. See, just about everyone we know is connected to Facebook. Everyone carries their phone in their back pocket and on their person. Most fall asleep with their phones next to their bed. All I could think is how many people would be turned off by his Facebook post, me being one of them. I would never want to be a patron of an establishment that ridicules people online, no matter what a customer has done wrong.
I made a comment on the feed giving an analogy. What if I came to his restaurant and did not have a nice experience and blasted it all over Twitter (or any social media for that matter)? That would only be fair, right? I reminded the owner to have grace for others. I reminded him that he blessed her with a meal. I shared that we own a business locally as well and things like this have happened to many business owners, it is so much about perspective. Change the processes that aren’t working to prevent it from happening again but let’s not do this to our neighbors.
I feel like handing the video footage over to the police would be so much more effective.
Within minutes the attacks began. The followers accused me of condoning stealing (which I never once said). Over and over again the folks on his Facebook page encouraged their friends to steal from me and my business. One lady told me I am what is wrong with this world. I was called names and cursed at. I was told that I was not welcome in their town. I was told that I was stupid. I was ridiculed and harassed, all because I did not agree with the owners actions and they did not agree with my opinion. People wrote things like “…blessings being handed out at Crystal’s air conditioning business…” encouraging folks to steal from us because we condone stealing. There was more focus on me and getting me back for what I had said than there was on what started this entire topic.
For the rest of the day this continued. I finally turned off the notifications and stopped defending myself. I figured I would go to bed and the next morning it would all have blown over.
The next morning I woke up to another small business owner sharing our address and phone number in the thread. Then someone else shared every online profile of mine that they could find. I just sat watching things escalate and in awe that THIS is how adults act when opinions differ.
All of this went on for another full day. Interestingly enough, not one single person called our business, attacked us online outside of this thread nor did anyone show up at our address.
The following morning the entire thread was taken down by the restaurant owner. The tab had been paid for. I thought the ridiculing was over. I was wrong.
The next day I received a private message on Facebook from the restaurant owner. He started off by apologizing for how some of his Facebook readers treated me online. I thought that was a nice thing to do. I continued reading.
He went on to share many, many details of the person who walked their ticket. Troubles with the law, previous incidents, domestic issues and identifying this person as a public menace. He worked hard to justify his actions. He went on to tell me I seemed “holier than thou”. He went on to share how much he does for his community and how well he is liked by his customers. He went on to jab at me for posting pictures of adoptable pets on my Twitter feed. His words were, “Petting homeless puppies on twitter is great and provides wonderful picture opportunities, real life isn’t always so pretty. In the future you should really think twice about passing judgement on people like me.”.
Mind blowing all because I expressed that I did not agree with what he had done. Can two people simply not have different opinions and views?
I received a second private message from him and this is where he taunted me for being a Christian. He said, “I have heard you use this word [grace] more times on my Facebook page than I’ve heard my pastor use it on Easter Sunday. Grace is not a badge of honor or a flag you wave over your head to declare to the world how great you are.”
I honestly used the word grace a handful of times, if that.
How absolutely heartbreaking to read. I was baffled that someone would attack me for encouraging grace, something we are commanded to do.
He went on to tell me, “…but people like you scare me more than thieves and bad guys do. Bad guys know what they are , they own it and when they get caught deal with the consequences. People like you that hide behind a veil of Christianity and good will have always proven to me to be the last people I would want to associate with.”
It ended with him offering to buy my family a meal.
I want everyone here to remember that cyberbullying is not a middle school issue. It is a real epidemic that is happening everyday online. People will say things to you online they would never say to your face. People hide behind screens and smartphones vomiting words of hate.
It has to stop.
See, our children are watching us. We are training up a generation that is already desensitized to so much. I encourage us all to set the example for our kids. They will do what we do and they can see everything we do on social media.
Talk to your kids today about cyberbullying and let them know you would not bully anyone online and you would not expect them to act this way either. Encourage them not to feed off of other comments that are hateful and oftentimes inaccurate. Encourage them to have grace.
I share this with you because we all have something to learn. Our children are at risk when adults are not setting the example.
How will you stop cyberbullying? It starts at home.