Monday, November 4, 2013

Did you hear about that knitter who did that thing?

30 Days of Gratitude: 
I am grateful for all those peer listening and peer counseling classes I took in grade school and high school. Conflict resolution vs. conflict avoidance. Only one of them gets you anywhere.

NaBloPoMo: Gossip Kills

I have a serious post today. This post isn't about that thing that just happened or that thing that happened 2 weeks ago, or that thing that is going to happen 2 months from now when you get around to read it. This is about all of it and none of it.

One thing that really held me up blogging the past few months was how very angry I was at the internet witch hunts that sometimes plague the online community. I felt like I had to get it off of my chest, but I couldn't quite bring myself to write about it calmly.

It is absolutely naive of me to believe that everyone in our community is the nicest kind of person. Yet I persist in that mindset because that's how I wish the world was. It really makes me crabby when people insist on cramping my world vision.

Yes, there are people who steal intellectual property or set out to commit fraud. There are also people who inadvertently design the same pattern or who fall on hard times and cannot fulfill their financial obligations. Who judges who is the villain and who is merely the bad business person? In our online community, a few self-appointed arbitors of internet justice love to rile people up. Grab your pitchforks, everyone. We've got someone to tar-and-feather.

Witch hunts go viral in our community faster than the latest side-to-side shawl pattern. As much as I love superheroes, do we really want vigilante internet justice? There are more civilized ways to handle these things, I think. Rational discussion and critical thinking are two methods that come to mind.

Let's just stop for a minute. Before deciding that well-known person X is absolutely 100% right, and unknown person is 100% wrong, let's start doing some research. People do bad things. Sometimes they do very bad things. Sometimes they deserved to be named. Sometimes they even deserve to be reported to the appropriate authorities. But you know what they almost never deserve? Being the target of 500 Ravelers whose personal mission it is to destroy that person, in any possible way, including having them fired from their jobs, destroying their family, following them to their front door, and utterly ruining their reputation so completely that they never, ever have a chance to bounce back.

Even if we never let courts decide our various internet sins, let us at least make sure we have the full story before picking up our drama sticks.

I believe in second chances. She who is without sin, cast the first hank of ack-crylic.


Finally, even if it never hits the internet, idle gossip kills. Trusted friend X tells trusted friend X tells trusted friend X tells trusted friend X. Even if Trusted Friend is trusted, is it not possible that Trusted Friend is human and they got the message slightly wrong?

Unrelated to the non-events that inspired the first half of this post, I had to have 2 embarrassing and awkward conversations about gossip this year. Through a customer, I heard that I had allegedly said something awful about some dear acquaintances and their event. Not only did I, allegedly, say this to their faces, but I said it in public and embarrassed them deeply. Er, I have no recollection of that whatsoever. Through a colleague, I heard that someone who I barely know, but respect a great deal, did not care for me on the basis of where I worked and who I was doing work for. Plus they thought I was a bad dyer. Say what?

I am not confrontational. Confrontation makes me sick to my stomach and interferes with my sleep. My voice wavers a lot when I have to confront a difficult situation. But I am not pathologically non-confrontational, either. If something needs saying, I will say it.

In the first instance, I contacted my acquaintances directly and offered an apology if I had inadvertently said anything that offended them. In the second instance, I had the opportunity to attend one of the person's events and talk to them directly. In both cases, it turns out that idle gossip was just that. Neither party had any idea what I was talking about or where it came from. Whew, because I thought I was going crazy there for a minute.

Here's the thing about idle gossip, it hurts feelings. It can also hurt someone's livelihood and they may never know why. How many times was "Rachel was mean to Beloved Person X" been repeated before I was able to correct misinformation? One person? 10 people? 100 people? Pardon me if the idea that an overheard conversation between the 3 involved parties can get overheard, misunderstood, and "telephoned" along for a year.

Gah! Let's just all be excellent to each other, ok?


  1. Idle gossip is one thing. Publicly shaming an inexperienced knitter at great length is another. What we have seen recently is what I would call bullying, and that particular designer has lost all my future business.

    1. It all gets lumped under the heading "Jerk Behavior" and it is all still damaging, but yes, I will agree that the dogpile witch hunts fall under the category of bullying. I tried to be clear in my post that I was talking about two different things, both of which are on my mind this morning.

      I do want to be clear that this post is not referring to any one event, although I was inspired to post it this morning. The first half of this post has been in my drafts folder for a few months now. It took me a long time to put my thoughts in to words.

    2. Yeah, when I went back and reread I could see that there were two distinct points being made, whoops! It is serendipitous that you've had the first half in draft form and yet it's pretty much immediately relevant to the recent incident.

    3. I had it written up, and edited it constantly, because this happens all the freaking time. Every time I get this weird little hitch in my chest and wonder if it might one day be me at the end of a pitchfork.

  2. Although I do not know you personally, I admire your work. I completely admire, and agree with, everything you've said in this post.

    It is quite sad that "adults" continue to act like they are stuck in high school. It is disappointing that people cannot simply handle a situation in a professional manner. I see this all of the time. I see it at work, in the community, and even in places of worship. Being part of the "Mean Girls Club" is not very becoming.

    Thank you for stating the obvious in a professional manner. I hope that others are inspired to behave as professionally. Have a wonderful day :)

    1. Thank you, NanaJen. Mean Girls Club is exactly right. You would think places of worship would be exempt from this behavior, but I went to a church school from K-12. I know better.

  3. I think of you as a reasonable and rational person, not one to be malicious or hateful. This blog post just underscores how professional you are when solving problems. I'm glad you were able to talk with the others. If we all had such dedication to finding out the truth, these problems may not even exist. Thank you for doing the right thing and not spreading the hate.

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I know you know as a fellow indie how stressful it is to watch other people have their businesses harmed (whether rightly or wrongly) by a mob mentality.

  4. I must be under a rock. I cannot imagine that behavior in the fiber world, but I guess it's here as much as everywhere else. I'm sorry about the stress it causes everyone else, but NOT the perpretrator. Geez, Rachel.

    1. Stay under your rock, is my suggestion. It is a cozy rock and everyone likes each other under the rock. I am planning my vacation under that rock.

      I can think of several instances in the last year where the default method of conflict resolution was to cultivate a mob mentality and try to take another person down. It is straight up bullying.

      Carol Sulcoski wrote a nice post about dogpiling yesterday that is an interesting read.


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