The Bead Cyberbully – by Hannah Rosner

Originally written for the ISGB Newsletter

In my last article (posted yesterday), I looked at online Trolling in the arts fields.  Today I want to discuss Cyberbullies.  Before I begin though, I want to redefine these terms.  What is the difference between a Troll and a Cyberbully?  In both cases, I’ve seen feelings badly hurt, and in many cases I see trolling turn into cyberbullying.  But for the sake of these articles, I’m going to define them as follows:  Trolls seek to rile online communities and attract attention to themselves.  In other words, trolling is really all about the person doing the trolling – they want to feel smart or to get reactions and it doesn’t matter who responds so long as there IS a response.  Since my last article I found a really good online article about Trolls on Psychology Today here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-online-secrets/201409/internet-trolls-are-narcissists-psychopaths-and-sadists

As soon as it becomes personal, it becoming bullying. Cyberbullies want to use the Internet to hurt specific victim(s).  Although most of the online information I found involved cyberbullying of teens and adolescents, I saw many reports of artists who sold their work online becoming targets.  As a result, I put out a posting asking for stories, especially from my lampworker friends.  I received more responses than I expected, and they were truly heartbreaking.

The most important things I’m going to tell you are:

  1.  If you have been the target of cyberbullying, you are not alone – Cyberbullies generally have multiple victims and are bullies in real life as well.  They are not singling you out – they are terrible to many people.
  2. There are steps you can take, but confronting a Cyberbully directly beyond telling them to stop is not one of them.

When I originally looked into writing an article about cyberbullying within the beading and lampworking communities, I felt that I’d been really lucky.  My instances of cyberbullying were minor and had been resolved years ago in spite of my active online sales via social media outlets.  This changed three weeks before I wrote this article when I got an order from a NY customer via Etsy for a made-to-order pendant.  The posting stated that creation and shipping needed a month, but the attached note told me that the pendant was needed in two days.  The order was placed on a Saturday morning and the pendant was needed on Monday afternoon.  There was no suggestion of upgrading shipping from first class to overnight, so I wrote a note clearly restating the terms and asking if the customer would like a refund.  The answer accepted my shipping terms so I began creation.  Two days later I received a note asking for  a more specific date of shipping.  Again, I stated that the piece needed a full month and gave a three day window in which the customer could expect their piece.  In the next four days, I answered the same question exactly 5 more times.  At this point you’re thinking “that’s not bullying, that’s nagging” and you would be absolutely correct.  But I realized that there was no way I was going to see the end of the notes so I refunded and canceled the order.  That’s when things got nasty.  In the next note I was called idiotic and childish and was told to grow up.  I ignored the email.  The next 6 emails got progressively nastier.  I turned them over to Etsy without responding and got a sadly predictable response on how Etsy likes its sellers and customers to work things out themselves.  Thing is, this Cyberbully didn’t get what he wanted.  I’m not sure if I was supposed to reinstate the order or just feel bad but really all I got was this little story to tell you.

Social media allows bullying to become easy for people since they rarely face repercussions and actually see the hurt they inflict.  In some instances Cyberbullies never actually meet the people they bully. Kind people don’t suddenly become horrible online.  I asked for stories and asked that names not be given but in almost all of the cases, victims supplied them anyhow.  As it turned out, this showed an interesting trend.  Once they got bored with one victim, they didn’t just stop.  Instead, they moved onto another victim.  Each time I was given a name, I heard multiple stories about them from multiple sources.

Why do they behave in this manner?  I have no idea because I am not a psychiatrist.  We like to tell each other that these Cyberbullies and Trolls are somehow jealous – but that’s oversimplifying the situation.  Our community is relatively small.  Perhaps some of these Cyberbullies fear the competitive market – there are less buyers than 10 years ago and thereby more competition for the existing expendable cash.  This would explain quite a bit of the behavior in the seed beading market.  Many bead stores have closed their doors and the numbers of show attendees and in-person buyers have dwindled as the online costs have plummeted and online availability has increased.

Social Media sales groups and pages were the stage for quite of few of the stories I heard.  The most interesting ones I received were stories in which a writer started out by posting an inappropriate comment to a thread, on a forum or in someone’s personal group.  The original comment was possibly trollish and possibly just meant as a joke – not related to the original thread at all and poorly conceived.  The result was a group of people who pounced on her and cyberbullied her off the board/group/forum and then sent direct messages and a number of phone calls.  Did she deserve it?  Absolutely not.  Nobody deserves to be bullied.  Remember  that when you speak directly to someone, they hear the inflection in your voice, they take visual cues and they also have the words you say.  Online, your readers only have one of those 3 cues and it’s easy to miss a joke.

I also received a number of stories about non-constructive criticism about artists’ works by Cyberbullies.  In many cases the criticism bled over from work to direct criticism of the victim herself.  In each case, the victim did exactly the right thing by just leaving the group (forum or page) altogether.  Again, each was not alone in being bullied.  Even more important to remember as an artist is that if you are being bullied by someone online about the design or quality of your work, it is easy to get your feelings hurt when you’ve put so much of yourself into your art.  However, whoever is cyberbullying you is not your target market so their opinion does not matter.

The stories I was most shocked by were the ones in which there were real-life and personal rather than business connections.  In two instances I heard stories of relationships gone sour: in both cases the Cyberbully and his new partner turned to Facebook and to online forums to trounce the character and the artistic skill set of the victim.  In one of these cases the Cyberbully actually stalked his victim’s website to find her full list of scheduled classes and called each one of the stores to slander her.  In another situation, two artists were interested in dating a third artist.  The resulting online slut shaming lasted nearly a decade but actually did no harm to the livelihood or relationship of the victim.  Do each of these cases now fall under the definition of Twibel (online libel)?  Yes, they do, and they can be addressed as such in a court of law.  In most cases of Cyberbullying, however, the victim does nothing.

The multiple victims who received email and/or verbal threats of lawsuits from one member of our community have not taken action.  This Cyberbully also bullied victims in person, no matter if they were family, professional contacts or employees.  An attorney friend of mine thought that many of these threats were empty.  Further if there ever were actual lawsuits that went forward they would be thrown out.  However, the threats themselves incurred worry and wasted time.  Even if the lawsuits went forward to the point of getting thrown out of court, they would cost the victim time and money – another win for the Cyberbully.

Finally, I got responses from a whole group of people who I know have not actually been bullied.  I found this interesting, and even more so as I expected to hear from every last one of these people when I put out my original posting.  These people love to be the center of attention, constantly are describing themselves as victims online, always have troubles that they post onto Facebook to gather attention, Paypal “donations” and pity.  In two cases, I would actually place them squarely in the camp of online Trolls.  Fascinating, right?

So, what can you do?  Do you feel like you have been the victim of a Cyberbully?  There are actually steps you can take.  Take a look at this article: https://cyberbullying.org/advice-for-adult-victims-of-cyberbullying

Please, have a kind day.

A Look at Trolling in the Online Art Field.

Written Originally for the ISGB Newsletter

–        Hannah Rosner

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a number of articles describing online trolling and/or cyberbullying within the art community.  In addition, a number of friends of mine have noted to me that the tenor of their online experiences have changed since they began in the art fields and first joined social media platforms.  As a result, I wanted to look at how it has affected my friends who are professional and hobby artists, particularly in the lampworking and beading fields.

I put out a posting on Facebook, which seemed appropriate to me.  The responses I got were varied and heartbreaking.  But I realized that the topic was much bigger and more complex than I originally expected.

Today, I’m going to be mainly looking at online trolling, but before I start, I need to note that I have studied psychology in absolutely no way.  I don’t have a degree in it, I haven’t taken classes beyond an Intro to Psychology class almost 30 years ago and I don’t pretend to be a doctor of anything.  I’m not going to be diagnosing anything, and I don’t have a way to stop trolling; I’ve just been overall pretty lucky.  In my next article, I’ll be comparing trolling to cyberbullying.  These articles will only just skim the surface of the problem.

So, what is the difference between a Troll and a Cyberbully?  In both cases, I’ve seen feelings badly hurt.  But for the sake of these articles, I’m going to define them as follows:  Trolls seek to rile online communities and attract attention to themselves.  In other words, trolling is really all about the person doing the trolling – they want to feel smart or to get reactions and it doesn’t matter who responds so long as there IS a response.  As soon as it becomes personal, it becoming bullying; cyberbullies just want to use the Internet to hurt their victims.  In some of the cases my friends shared, a situation that started as trolling became cyberbullying.

The word “trolling” comes from a fishing term.  The fisherman casts a line or net out behind his boat and then pulls it along, hoping for a catch.  Can you see where the online term came from as a result?  The Troll makes a remark online and then waits to see who will become upset by it.

Trolls tend to leave remarks in public settings.  It can be on a forum, as a response to a Facebook post, in a Facebook group, or as a response to a tweet.  The comments can be racist, sexist, profane, and are usually not related to the original topic.  They are opinions not verifiable statements and therefore not considered defamatory.

In three separate cases, professional artist friends told me of sexist trolling instances.  Two were from illustrators, both targeted because the Troll felt that a women shouldn’t be illustrating for the gaming or science fiction/fantasy fiction market.  The third was a from a blacksmith.  He had posted a photo of a friend of his – a woman – working.  The Troll focused on her tank top and wondered online whether she had trouble burning “the puppies.”  The remarks quickly became even more inflammatory.

I showed artwork for nearly 10 years in the science fiction/gaming market and taught for a number of years at a not-for-profit Glass Education center and can tell you that I truly believe that these remarks are based in nothing but insecurity. Ignoring the Troll completely takes their power from them  Fortunately within beading and beadmaking we get less instances of sexism.

There’s absolutely nothing you can say online, however, that will make a racist/sexist/anti-Semitic person change their mind.  If its Facebook, the “block” and “hide” functions are your best friends and the quickest way to regain your peace of mind if seeing the comments bothers you.  If I see a friend getting trolled, I tend to privately send them a message supporting them and then get great satisfaction out of going to the Troll’s page and blocking them before I ever see a thing from them again.  If it’s a forum, many have blocking functions as well.  I tend to ignore Twitter completely.

About three years ago, I found myself in a different type of trolling situation.  This was the grammar or spelling “fix.” While posted under the guise of “just being helpful,” it is usually only designed to make the original poster or one of the people commenting feel unintelligent.  The whole idea here is to shift the focus from the original poster or topic onto the Troll.  In the case of my Troll, I had been teasing an artist friend by referencing a bit of literature (Dante’s Inferno, to be precise).  The Troll hadn’t actually read it, had no idea what I was referencing, and tried to trounce me anyhow.  Unfortunately, I also fell for his trap by responding.

I find the whole grammar and spelling trolling against artists to be completely unreasonable.  Many of us are visual artists, not writers.  We have trouble expressing ourselves with words and instead do it in glass or beads or whatever our medium happens to be.  I can’t tell you how many friends have agonized to me about the dreaded 150 word “Artist Bio.”  Just remember, someone who is trolling you about your writing isn’t you friend and probably won’t purchase from you.  As a result, are they really worth your time?  Go make some great art instead of worrying about them.

A final way that a Troll can harm is by posting about someone else on their own wall/website/forum thread or by contacting third party. but these have real legal implications  For instance, A suspects that B hasn’t been using good business practices somehow and instead of contacting them directly, she posts a public blog about it.  If she uses real names, then she has real victims who can sue her for internet defamation, now referred to as “Twibel.”  “Libel law only requires that a statement was published to a third party,” Attorney Jeff John Roberts explains.

Two other instances: C suspects that D is namedropping without permission (i.e. a piece inspired by someone) and instead of asking directly whether they are allowed to use the style they start a thread about it.  Or E decides that a specific bead is HIS trademarked thing so contacts Etsy and claims (unfounded) that he’s got an attorney that will sue unless Etsy removes everything tagged with that particular thing from their site.   Etsy is lawsuit shy so does no research, doesn’t contact the owners of the shops at all and instead suspends listings on 7 accounts; E has affected 7 other people’s livelihoods of which 6 are actually polymer clay artists and only one is a lampworker.

All three of these instances can affect a small business owner’s finances and obfuscate the line between trolling and cyberbullying.  If given time, energy and cash they can be fought legally as long as the abuser uses real names in their postings.  However, the abuser is placing bets that their victims won’t contact an attorney.

Want to read a bit more about internet Trolls?  My friend Julia shared this great blog post a while back: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2017/04/troll-tactics.html.

 

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A very Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate!

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This is the second in a two part series on how I price my work. I posted the first part yesterday.

Originally, this series was written for the ISGB Newsletter.  Enjoy!

Pricing Your Work

In my last article, I mentioned that pricing your beads and/or jewelry is the most stressful part of getting ready for a bead show for many people.  In this article, I’ll talk about what works for me and the really basic, straightforward formula I use.

Remember, though, this is just what works for me.  You might have something better and that’s great.  As a side note, I once had a conversation with a group of artists friends on pricing our work.  There were five of us in the group.  We came up with 7 different pricing techniques between us.  Granted, there was also some wine…

So, back to my personal pricing system for my beads.  I do the following math, and yes, its algebra.  And yes, I apologize.

(How much I want to make per hour) * (how many hours it took to make it) = X

Ok, look.  I’d like to make 30 million dollars an hour too, but that’s not going to happen.  You need to be reasonable about your hourly rate but you also NEED to get paid for your time.

(The retail value of what I spent on supplies) = Y

We will talk about what goes into this in a moment.  Hint: its more than just the glass if you’re a lampworker.

X + Y = Z (Where Z is how much I want for the item)

Now, we need to add a few more figures to Z…

If you are selling on a platform like Etsy or Ebay then you need to add the listing fees, plus the percentage they take if the item sells.

If you take credit cards, you want to include the fees upfront.  Paypal fees are 2.9% + .30 per transaction.  My fees for the Square are pretty similar.

Need packaging or shipping supplies?  Yep, you want to add that too.  I’m going to call those “incidentals.”

Complicated much?

Remember, Z is how much I wanted for that item.

Z + (Zx11%) = NewZ

I’ve found that 11% of whatever I came up with for Z covers any listing and packaging/incidentals and credit card stuff.

NewZ is what you need to sell or list your item for.

Alrighty.  You hanging in there with me?  Lets talk about the types of things that need to go into your retail value of the supplies that you use.  First of all, there’s the glass…  That’s sort of self-explanatory, but if you’re using boro or silver glass it might be more expensive than soft glass white.  Here’s a few other things you might consider adding…

  • Gas.  I’m lucky.  I get oxygen and propane at a pretty reasonable rate here.  It’ll be less if you have an oxycon, though.  I figured this for me at a pretty reasonable rate of $5/day and then divide it by how many beads come out of the kiln.
  • Electricity.  I figured this out at about $1/hour.  For a 10 hour kiln cycle that means that I divide $10 by how many beads come out of the kiln.
  • CZs
  • Metal foils or powders or leaf
  • Mica powders
  • Metal tubing and bead caps
  • If you’re really OCD, you might consider adding a really small amount of your bead release…
  • A friend and I once got into an argument (it was in play, but still raises the point) on whether there should be wear and tear on the tools and/or mandrels.  I don’t tend to add them, but you might want to.

See where I’m going with these?  All of these together would create your supplies and since you must have them in order to create your beads, then you should consider their costs.

You might also consider adding how long it takes to photograph and list items on social media sites and/or online sales sites.

The list of things to consider just keeps growing, doesn’t it?  You want to make this pricing thing a savvy business decision!  Realistically, the thing you want to do towards this end is only try to sell at venues that have buyers who appreciate handmade.