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Just Say NO to Shunning

Over the weekend, I got word of yet another incident where one costumer felt another costumer had slighted her. In retaliation, she got all her friends to shun the offending costumer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen or heard word of this kind of treatment. Word of these incidents are getting so common that it's gone to the point where I feel it’s time I can't be silent any more. I, who don't post frequently, felt I had to de-lurk to speak out on this subject.
In this incident, as with others, nobody bothered to permit the offending costumer a chance to defend herself—to find out if the slight was intentional—or if it even occurred. Instead, punishment was meted out with no explanation to the offender, who found herself inexplicably expelled from expected social interactions.
Geesh—how on earth did our hobby become such a club of mean girls?
Shunning is identified by psychologists as a form of bullying behavior and has been clinically connected with depression, PTSD and suicide. I’ve been shunned in the past and it was a mystifying and heartbreaking experience.
If you’ve done this, look objectively at the person you are shunning and decide if your hurt is really worth getting personally perceived as a mean-spirited bully. While some may follow you on your campaign of retaliation—word will spread, as it did to me this weekend. Believe me—when my friend shared word of this incident, my only perception of the incident was that the retribution was mean, petty and vindictive.
It only ended up hurting the bullying costumer's reputation, not the woman who may or may have not slighted her. I"m not going to shun this costumer, but I'm definitely going to be wary of her. Other friends of mine are taking care to completely avoid her.

Now of my friend list here--I honestly don't think anyone would act like this--but I think we have to get Zero-tollerant on this kind of behavior. Children are taught to fight shunning behavior in elementary schools--isn't it about time that we act better than 5th graders?

So, I'm writing this as a open post and hoping it's a subject we start talking about at events and here online. Maybe if more folks write about it in their own LJs and blogs, it might stop. We are the majority, not the bullies. It's time we stood up for civility.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
Ah, but my dear---so many of us are downright Pharisaical about...so many things.
In other words, people have to recognize that they are actually engaging in a wrong, hurtful, or unjust behavior---they have to confront themselves and be completely unable to rationalize away whatever it is they do that they ought not be doing in the first place, and not simply recognize it in others.
They have all sorts of explanations to excuse their actions, to themselves and their like-minded friends or cohorts.
They have a thousand ways to make it right if they engage in it, but of course it's wrong when others do it. In other words, bullies never see themselves as bullies, just as snarks either never see themselves as snarks or they make snarking all right to do because "[They] don't say it to the person's face so no feelings are hurt."
Can they be sure it never gets repeated? The Chinese say, "How many can keep a secret? One."

At any rate, believing themselves to be totally good eggs, even if humanly flawed, is how they go on bullying and being okay with doing it.

I expect I'll have infuriated a lot of those people who read your journal. That will be in part because in order to explain and defend my personal beliefs on this and related topics, I'd be writing a thesis, and a very long, wordy thesis at that, far too wordy for a LiveJournal comment.

So, let me sum up as succinctly as I can:
Have you seen that quotation on the public page of my journal? "We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts."
Oct. 5th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
You're pretty right here.

A lot of people thing it's wrong until suddenly "but that insult really deserves it!"

And then they go ahead and do it.
Oct. 5th, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
There's also the obverse of the coin, which is where does the victim mentality come from that takes offense so readily?
When did so many people become so thin-skinned? When did they decide that it's desirable to be offended by what is often, in the very grand scheme of things, something inconsequential?

And what are these "slights?" Viennabelle brings up an excellent point: was the perceived slight intentional, and for that matter did it actually occur?
On the internet, especially on social networking venues such as LiveJournal, I've noticed that the omission of "squee"-ing seems to be a capital offense. If that one person isn't overwhelmed with awe, admiration and envy and saying so, why...! And a lot of indignation and outrage ensues.
Oct. 5th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
My impression is that most of these hullabaloos usually start when the offender fails to respond as the bully expects: praise wasn't sufficient, apology wasn't genuine/didn't occur, she failed to respond/appreciate me, something/someone wasn't noticed/acknowledged, etc.

Look, anyone in the wrong mood can overreact when someone looks sideways at them. We all get hurt and let our emotions take over. What we have to do is to generate a peer environment that doesn't tolerate retribution when this occurs.

I'm hoping more of us will ask the critical question when they see a friend winding out of control over a slight: "did you talk to her about it?"

Anti-bullying programs works in schools. They start by developing peer support for norms that let bystanders feel supported when they stand out against bullying behavior. Maybe we need to promote something like that in our hobby?
Oct. 5th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
I agree that each of us will get hurt from time to time, and allow our emotions to play us up, but it seems to me that the key here is not to ACT on them, not to "allow [them] to take over.".

It seems to me that the "injured" or "slighted" party needs to bear in mind something written by Machiavelli, that the ultimate exercise of power is restraint. Yes, he was talking about politics and militia, but I think it applies.
The happiest and kindest people I know, and know of, are those who don't permit themselves to be troubled over such things.

And among adults, this sort of refereeing shouldn't be necessary.
And it seems to me that among adults of conscience "developing peer support for norms that let bystanders feel supported when they stand out against bullying behavior" ought to be unnecessary and the need for it is not just lamentable but pathetic! Are we as adults so timid, so frightened that someone else might disagree with us or that we might be the lone voice of reason in a mob, that we keep silent????

As long as we're talking about refereeing, though, what about the too-common internet forum practice of "dog-piling" or "piling on?"
Frequently in those cases it isn't even the principal who's been offended, but a friend of hers: "How DARE you suggest that there isn't historical evidence for Thus-and Such? My FRIEND would NEVER make a historical error and you're just snarking" and then the rest of the crowd gathers round to join in the stoning.
Oct. 5th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
I chuckled when I read your line "And among adults, this sort of refereeing shouldn't be necessary." My first reaction to the story was "grow up!" (no, I don't know how to do italics or bold either ;-))

The anti bullying training I've received really drove home that the critical actors are the bystanders. A single person speaking for civility can often break the chain. As MLK said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends“ If a bully isn't resisted--either by the victim or bystanders, they will continue because the activity leaves them with a sense of vindication.

But to do this--to stop the dog piling--takes bravery--peer support can help that.
Oct. 5th, 2011 12:47 pm (UTC)
I applaud you for writing this. It is certainly the right thing. But I also think virginiadear has a very good point. "They" (whomever "they" may be) always think their actions are justified. They always think they're in the right. They always think the shunned person deserves it. They always don't think they're being mean but "justified" by the terrible slight.

I have to admit that I often find it all too reminiscent of high school and I tend to go my own way, just like I did back then.
Oct. 5th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Kass.
I, too, applaud viennabelle for writing this.

Actually I believe that all of us, at one time or another, is Pharisaical about one thing or another.
I know, though, that the public school system I attended, and my parents and my school mates' parents all demanded of us that we think before we made an accusation. Is there another possible explanation than the one you're latching on to? Could it be the person you think is doing or thinking such-and-such, isn't? Could he or she have meant something else? Is it possible they're just distracted by pressures at school, at home, or at a part-time job?
Parents and teachers were very big on, "You have to walk for miles and miles in another man's moccasins before you know the road he treads. Put yourself in his position: what might explain what he has done/said?"
If you didn't get invited to that party, first ask yourself how well you like the kids throwing it and attending it. Ah---you just want to be included. And are you sure those are the people you want to be like, accepted by, and liked by? Do you really want to do the things rumor says are being done at their parties? (That was a manipulative bit of guilt-inducement by some parents.)
Actually we didn't seem to have a lot of that kind of fussing and whining going on, and quite a lot of what could have become big dust-ups did seem to get settled as viennabelle is advocating, only it was the two principals: "Did you mean ____" or "What you said/didn't say [did/didn't do] made me feel_______" and a civil response was made although I'll grant you it may not always have been sincere. Parents refused to allow their kids to behave in a way which reflected badly on them as parents.
Somewhere along the line that seems to have done an about-face, and the results we see in actions such as "shunning." Or in making accusations of snarking. Or in "piling on." ("Clothesline take-down." "Horse-collar take-down." "Personal foul, face mask." "Personal foul, holding." But no referee imposes an official penalty. Or at least, not a fair, objective one.)

Oh---it just hit me as I read your sentence, "They don't think they're being mean but 'justified' by the terrible slight [italics mine--virginiadear] That might be a key, because it seems to me that "slight" ought be that: slight. Small, slim, slender, not robust, of little consequence.
But somehow, these things roar out of control.

Now, I have to ask something unrelated to this topic, Kass, except that you used this in your comment. I've learned to make italics (mostly correctly) in comments, and I've learned to do bold-face type. How do I put in the "LJuser" with the link and the little LJuser head, into a comment, I mean? A PM is fine, if you're willing, so as not to hijack viennabelle's journal; I would be most appreciative. TIA!
Oct. 5th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
"They don't think they're being mean but 'justified' by the terrible slight [italics mine--virginiadear] That might be a key, because it seems to me that "slight" ought be that: slight. Small, slim, slender, not robust, of little consequence.
But somehow, these things roar out of control.

I've seen it happen right in front of my very eyes. The slight-er said something she thought was helpful and the slight-ee yelled that she was mean and went off to cry somewhere. I sat like a concussed duckling wondering how what I hear could have been misinterpretted so badly. Human communication. We don't all "receive" properly what other people are trying to "transmit". And if we're used to being drama queens to get attention, that just turns up the drama volume.

It reminds me of the time an occilating fan fell off the windowsill in my friend's dorm room. She was all, "It was the Dorm Ghost! Kass saw it too! It was creepy!" And I was all, "An occilating fan walked itself off the windowsill. Big deal."

Oct. 5th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
Nae doubt: human communication. I'm with you on the transmitting and receiving.
What I believe I've observed is an awful lot of filtering based on personal psychological need: need for drama, need to be a victim (and, attaching that to concomitant polar thinking, thereby white-hatted,innocent, righteous and RIGHT, making the other person black-hatted, guilty, evil and WRONG), need for personal vindication....
There also seems to be quite a lot of projection (a la Jung) going on in those scuffles.

I've seen it happen, too. ("No, it isn't. The house does that as the weather gets colder: it's wood framed and wood sided and it groans as temperatures and humidity drop. Nothing grim happened over its ninety-three year history: what you're hearing is nothing more than physics in action." No, for them it has to be a malignant spirit.)
Often I'm at---used to be at--- the bottom of those dog-piles I mentioned, somewhere above, because when someone asks a question such as, "But can I justify doing thus-and-such," I take the question as literal and sincere, and I respond literally and sincerely, having completely misunderstood that the question, posed by an OP, is a cue for Squeeing Applause.

So not interesting! Took me only three years and a bit to figure that out (no one said I'm particularly bright), so today I rarely comment on anyone else's work, and I rarely display my own.

These folks do seem to love their drama, though.
Maybe they'd enjoy actual theater. (<--- Yes, I know: that's snide. Mea maxima culpa, "...and let the stoning commence.")
Oct. 5th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Oh darling, you are opening a road that I have promised to be nice and not go down. But just let me say: SOOOOOO there with you!
Oct. 5th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Are you serious? I thought we were all adults here. I'm appalled that someone would act in that manner!
Oct. 5th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
There have always been dustups--but lately I have discovered LOTS of incidents of serial bullying and shunning. It's getting more and more vicious. I stewed on the last story for two days--but it really hit me as the last straw. Folks really do have to act like adults for a change.

PS--Glad to hear from you! Hope all is well for you & your dear sweetie! :)
Oct. 6th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
Thanks! All is well here in the rainy land of Ithaca!
Oct. 5th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
I feel like somehow I haven't said this plainly enough: Brava, viennabelle, for trying to stop this silliness and standing up for civility.
Oct. 5th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
No--it's just the obvious--but maybe we can make a difference. Now I kind of feel like going to a major event just to hand out ribbons that say "not even a pretty costume can stop a bully from looking ugly" (ok, bad slogan, but you get my drift).
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )