Cyberbullying and the Rules of Peeking into the Diaries
Comedian Bill Maher once said that, in any invention or discovery designed to advance or enlighten us, people will find the worst, most debased ways to use it. Like nuclear fission: atom bomb. Women’s lib: porn. Aerosol cans: huffing. Credit: scams. Preparation H: undereye cream. That’s not what it’s for.
These off-label uses are not always illegitimate but they swing opposite of the creator’s lofty goals for the new development. Nowhere else is this more true than the internet. Cyberbullying tagged along with the coziness of the complete interconnectedness of the worldwide web. Just as a man from Tacoma was unlikely to meet a woman from Albany without being connected to a dating or social networking site, a bully in Portland could never find a victim in Dallas without an internet connection. Sociability and abuse were once regionally bound. Now, no more. So we need rules.
RULE ONE OF PEEKING: NO DEMOTING OTHER PEOPLE’S DIGNITY
Now people bully prisoners even after authorities excise them from society. They post insults about us underneath press reports about our arrests and our sentencings. When an inmate who was here at York for murdering jewelry store owners in several robberies died from cancer in 2011, people posted terrible things about how they were glad she was dead. NiNi was dead-to-rights guilty before she passed away, but her life was no less valuable than her victims’. In fact, what made NiNi’s crimes as bad as they were was that – at least temporarily – she discounted the value of human life. When people did it to her on the internet they eroded the sanctity of life and set a model to follow whereby one life carries more worth than another and that’s not true. It’s the kind of attitude that enabled the almost twenty years of serial killing of (alleged) prostitutes in Washington State by the Green River killer or the cases of murdered prostitutes that is confusing detectives on Long Island. Demoting another’s dignity or the value of that person’s life is not cool, no matter who they are or what they did.
And it’s unfair to prisoners because, without any internet connection at all, we/they cannot defend ourselves or refute erroneous reports. Pick on someone with Wi-Fi.
RULE TWO: NO PERSONAL ATTACKS
I was bullied in prison, less by inmates than by guards. My feelings were hurt repeatedly. The value of the experience is that I am way more cognizant of what I say and do. And you should do the same, which is why I ask that no one post personal attacks about any women who are or have been guests of York or any prisoner or defendant in a criminal case. I ask that no one post a personal attack of any of the staff at the prison either.
RULE THREE: NO OUTING
Do not out people when I use aliases for their names. Everyone associated with the prison knows exactly whom I write about. If you’re not associated with York Correctional, then fall to your knees and bless yourself, keeping in mind that you really don’t need to know who Friskey or Soprano are.
And if someone does try to connect a real name with one of my fake ones, take heed that the most prolific posters of prison peoples’ real names are usually wrong. For all of its advances, the internet is a toilet; you would never want to be unable to use it but you should be cautious of what you retrieve from it. The lesson goes beyond the Prison Diaries.
RULE FOUR: NEVER FEEL UNWELCOME
Prison Diaries welcomes all readers and commenters, even if you have no sympathy for confined persons. If you are a victim of a crime – especially if you are the victim of crime – the e-floor is yours. Understanding what happened to you and how it made you feel is vital to reform that works. Your two cents is worth millions in understanding exactly what justice entails. All I ask is that you, too, avoid personal attacks. I know it’s hard but you can do it.
RULE FIVE: REMEMBER YOUR LASTING IMPRESSION
When I was a child I was fortunate to attend a school so small that there was no room to separate into cliques. Bullies really couldn’t bloom in this tightness. But I was bullied as an adult first by a cyberbully who spread falsehoods and personal attacks all around the web, complete with doctored photos.
It’s too long a story to tell here at once. But I know from experience that getting something defamatory off the internet is like trying to collect the gin martini you spilled in a hot tub; you might catch the olive but anything that matters is still swirling around getting all over you. You won’t undo the damage. That ends my internet/swirling plumbing equipment analogies forever. But still think about your e-legacy when you comment.
Prison Diaries is not a tabloid about the facility. It is a peephole – and now a round table – that allows everyone to work with the same facts. I welcome any comments, posts, criticism of my writing but please, leave the prison people (staff and inmates) alone. Don’t be mean. To anyone.