[EDIT: The posting of this message has been delayed due to the events of VidCon, it was originally written on Monday, July 5th, 2010]
Before we begin:
1: Some people, due to their popularity or general lack of interest in their inboxes, let the messages in their YouTube inbox accumulate into the thousands, and eventually, they simply give up on ever reading these messages. Instead, they direct their viewers to message them at an independent account or to just comment because, "they read them all." Due to their popularity, this is all they can do without their heads exploding.
2: Some people feel completely nuts if their inbox reaches a high amount, and find great satisfaction in getting their inbox down to 0. Even if they don't read the whole message or reply, the simple act of deleting crap and storing the rest for an eventual reply is enough to not let one feel like they have no control over their life. Some people do this even if their heads do explode several times.
3: I was a Number 1 person (in a general lack of interest way), and I am now a Number 2 person. It is easier for me though, due to the fact that my YouTube account has purposefully cooled down over the years. So, my head does not explode, but my, my, does it sure bubble. With disappointment.
I really only have "Don'ts" to advise on, because I don't think one should suggest what nice or appropriate things (Dos) people should say to another. You can say what you want. However, I do enjoy a message that is written with spirit, and is short and honest.
[EDIT: and those this post becomes less of a "Don't" blog and more about my thoughts and feelings on a message I received, I do hope to revisit this in the future, hopefully with something more amusing]
I find myself not enjoying messages from the "I'm so random" people, since I use to-and to a certain extent, every now and then, still do-write messages in this excitable manner, and find it quite tedious for ones inner voice to work out. I always reprimand myself for writing and thinking this way afterwards and think it is a good habit to work yourself out of eventually.
However, this messaging behaviour is not a Don't, because being excitable over a person (something I find myself doing almost every hour of the day) is not necessarily a bad thing. It just shouldn't become a mush of oh-so-aware-of-what-I-think-is-my-own-hilarity-but-is-in-fact-well-documented-in-late-90s-early-2000-television-show rambles.
Ok, so here is my suggested Don't or, to be more correct, here are my thoughts on a message I was just sent that disappoints me and makes me angry:
For quite a while I have been messaging back and forth with a man who offered to help me close a few fake accounts that edited content of mine into what I and many others found to be offensive, and politically and morally incorrect. I thanked him for his kindess and effort, and asked him to not let it consume his time, as the remaining channels merely needed to be ignored and deleted by quiet yet consistent flagging. Starting any kind of discussion with this unknown person was pointless; I had already tried that route.
Since then, this man who helped me, would occasionally inform me of his various lawsuits against YouTube, and, I admit, I ignored most of these messages. [EDIT: I do not regret this decision. If his behaviour was more appropriate and he wasn't associated with so many petty online discussions beforehand, perhaps I would have taken his issues with YouTube more seriously.]
I replied his messages politely every now and then at first, because I wanted to show my thanks. However, I simply had no opinion or desire to rush to support anything I did not completely understand yet and to some extent did not agree with.
I'm all for people fighting for rights and taking matters into their own hands, but I simply did not want him to take my polite replies as validation of what he was suing against, and I expressed this to him on one message (as nicely as I possibly could).
He also seemed quite eccentric about his opinions and would message me without prompting on his advancements, and this made me uncomfortable; I was just trying to protect myself.
He was perfectly polite and understanding about me not wanting to be involved and the frequency of messages from him slowed down. I thought perhaps I was dealing with an impassioned yet reasonable and polite middle-aged man [EDIT: I never watched his videos, and do not intend to, so it is probably something to do if one is curious as to whether they should be speaking to someone or not. I will be doing this in the future with other people. One's writing voice and actual voice are often quite, and sometimes dramatically, different]
Recently he messaged me to ask if I was in Gambia; my YouTube channel somehow changed my location (probably during my frequent edits of my Movies list). After a moment of confusion, I messaged him back saying I had changed it and thanked him for letting me know about it.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I received a message from him, sent over the weekend, that asked me to make a video wearing something tight, and if in the video I would bend over, showing cleavage because "my subscribers would appreciate" that action.
It's strange. At first, I actually felt hurt, and also embarrassed. I also felt nervous. My immediate thought was to write about this, but would writing about this be over-dramatic? Would I look like I was whining or simply getting worked-up about something considered petty? I thought about not doing anything at all, but it isn't like I'm complaining about increasing violence in video games. This is about human-to-human behaviour and entirely more intimate.
I've been trying to be polite to all the people who took their time to write to me. Either by replying back (with sometimes more to say than they did) or saving their messages for future contact, and here was someone, whom I had already had several quick discussions with, now asking me, probably drunkenly, for a "favour."
I felt dirty. I felt embarrassed because I couldn't believe I had let myself talk to someone who would feel confident or deluded enough to ask this. Perhaps if it was a young teenager I could have ignored and deleted it, feeling pity for them that they were an asshole or going through their crass stages [still not right, but hopefully something they grow out of as I've seen my male friends grow out of], but from an older man, it is completely unacceptable.
I want it to be understood that I know much crueler and more disgusting actions have been suggested and are being suggested right now to many other men and women alike. I have experienced this, as have many of the people in my life, and understand this.
What disturbed and embarrassed me was his calm tone in his message, like he was merely asking me to pass him the salt at the dinner table. Like he thought that I was quite capable and ready for this action, which is completely insulting.
His message was not crass, it was well-written and coherent.
He also publicly posts videos of himself, so is not hidden behind a wacky username and a blank channel. The fact that his mind, whether intoxicated or not, let him send this as if it was a normal request is the most disturbing of all.
Reflecting on this personally...
I suppose it makes me mad, because I can not be considered a young, naive girl anymore, and I feel stupid for continually letting assholes, perverts, stalkers, blackmailers and abusive men into my life. Sure, masks can be easily worn on the Internet, but after nearly four years of this crap, I would have assumed that my radar would be blinking a little brighter. I am definitely not as nice as I once was and I am less patient, and more bold, but obviously not bold enough and not shrewd enough to deflect these people immediately.
I wouldn't mind if it was a complete stranger, messaging me out-of-the-blue with a sexist comment like this. I know these assholes are out there, crowned in their anonymity, and they don't hurt me. I wish they weren't there, but I just delete. I mind this occasion however, because I have thanked this asshole. He has helped me and yet, he was possibly thinking those thoughts the whole time.
I don't want my faulty radar and my history of mentally abusive, sexist, and cruel men, both offline and on, to stop be from letting in good people into my life, but when it so easy for people to switch gears and reveal these dark, decrepit sides of themselves, how can anyone possibly feel safe or open to others? It also makes it harder every day to not let the defensive shell of over-analyzing and misreading, and self-loathing to build up and spread the hate that I am trying to avoid.
I wish people did not use the Internet as a cloak for hurting others or for the expression of their every little dark thought, simply because they are not brave enough or stable enough to seek out help for their feelings and thoughts (it takes courage to seek help and all who do should have our thanks), or since the world isn't divided into nice people and mentally unstable people, they are ignorant enough to think that this almost-anonymous behaviour is somehow acceptable.
Instead they indulge on the instant-satisfaction that the Internet brings them. Their cruel interactions with strangers have become the way they feel better about themselves. Every little scratch they make, which if not dealt with can become a scar on the victim, only relieves them temporarily until they find the next person to sink their fangs into.
The world is ugly and scary enough without having to deal with these people in such an intimate yet completely inhumane and sterile way.
I hope that I have the courage to be reasonable with myself and forgive myself for letting these people into my life again and again. I hope I do not continue to take it personally, and I hope, if you have experienced a similar situation, you can find it within yourself to forgive and let go, and realize that it is truly never your fault for these peoples actions.
I believe that hoping for these men and women to collectively change their hurtful actions online is pointless. I don't believe it will ever happen because it is such a private and personal journey. I would like to, but I sadly do not and I admit that this lack of confidence in my fellow man and woman may be just as damaging as those biting comments they leave behind.
The quest to rise above it...
Humans have and probably always will hurt each other and we can only hope that we personally find the strength to not harm ourselves during our time here. Not just physically but mentally. It is so easy to think mean, terrible, sexist, racist, and dark thoughts. Thinking kind, terrific, good thoughts and always trying to consider the options and others opinions, and to always seek out new thoughts (or help) and information in the fight against ignorance is so much more difficult.
However, I hope it is your constant quest, as it is mine*
How I try to remove these people from my Internet life...
So, to get back to the Dos and Don'ts, if you have received a message similar to the one I did, I do suggest immediately removing this person from your "friends", immediately blocking and not taking any excuses for their behaviour, like, "someone hacked my channel" or "I don't even remember" or "I was just joking" into account.
The only time I would consider such excuses is if the person is around your age and posts videos, photos, tweets, etc. of themselves online. It does not mean that they are telling the truth, but you have more evidence of this person's behaviour for possible legal action, which is always an option even if they seem "anonymous" but I don't want to discuss that here. If it seems completely out of character, you then have previous writings, videos, etc., to help you decide whether they are telling the truth or not.
In my case, I have now have a basic understanding of the circle that the person I've talked about in this blog is in, and though a member of that circle could easily have hacked in and written this, I do not want to be associated, in any way, with "friends" who would do this to someone they don't know.
If they are simply a username with no public posts, do not even begin to question their intentions. If they are not communicating to you as one would in a public setting and if they are not putting themselves out there as publicly as you are (even in the tiniest way, like you have a profile picture and they don't), they do not deserve your time.
However, if you under the age of 21, I do advise talking to your parents, guardians, trusted friends before considering any of the above suggestions, and getting their opinions and advice, too.
If you recognize yourself as the "Don't" in this post...
It is not my intention to fill the people who behave this way with guilt or anger. I understand that there are many factors that can lead one to behave a certain way. I have often in the past made a hurtful comment online and may stumble in the future. Sometimes it is so hard to resist pushing out our strong opinions or feelings, and the idea of keeping thoughts like these to ourselves, seems so difficult when the Internet is so full of similar thoughts already. Why should we behave any different, right?
I can't begin to advise on how to change hateful or sexist thinking. I'm not qualified too, I don't understand it all, and it's quite a personal journey, but I do advise, that if you thought what you said was funny or you believe they mis-read you or if you didn't make the comment, that you try to understand why that person blocked you from their Internet life. Consider their hurt, anger, fear for their safety.
People have different levels of Online Safety, and the best thing you can do is try to apologize in some way and then move on with your life. We all make mistakes, but one of the many good things about the Internet is we have the chance to delete these "internet lives", though these painful memories may last for as long as you and your victims live, but you can learn from them.
Then again, you must never forget that though I have used the term Internet Life or Real Life every now and then, it is still Life, your life, whole and not without consequences. The Internet is not the film, Tron. You can't pass it off as if you're playing a character in a game. You should consider that the mean things you do or say in this life cannot easily be deleted, not even online, and they never will be**
*I hope in stating this "quest against ignorance" that I have not been too ignorant with my thoughts in this post, and will happily and gratefully take your criticism and opinions and try to broaden my own. However, it will help if these opinions are posted with as much patience as you can muster and with kindness.
**dun dun dunnn, but seriously, never.