I have been reluctant to return to this subject, but a reply this morning (on Little Boxes II (March)) has forced me to rethink.
For several years I, and a number of others posted on the unmoderated and free for all AOL forums. Most of us were initially drawn to the board to discuss the case of missing Madeleine McCann. The forum quickly divided into those who supported the parents (the pros) and those who questioned the series of events (the antis), and many who were simply curious, and undecided.
As time went by, the Madeleine case faded into the background, but the core group of posters remained, even though there were deep divisions and major clashes of personality.
Some of us bonded and wanted to stay posting together, despite the heckling and abuse from the deeply entrenched gang of bullies, and maybe a stubborn sense that we were not going to be driven from a place we had become accustomed to.
However, I won't make light of what went on. Those who were tormented so mercilessly deserve more. The YGL became a study of human nature at its worst. A small gang of cyber bullies patrolled the board like rabid rottweillers, savaging and tearing apart any new poster who dared to raise their heads above the parapet. Victims were selected on an almost weekly basis, 'we like to have someone to kick around' was the battle cry of their leader.
Absolutely nothing was off limits to the bullying gang. Facebook pages were lifted, photographs distorted, private addressed revealed. Sick and disabled children were taunted, mental health and bereavement became a laughing matter. So many decent, intelligent posters were forced to leave, unable to endure the relentless tirade of abuse. The husband of one lovely lady wrote a post expressing his disgust. His wife was a cancer sufferer who came to the board for a bit of company and distraction from her illness. The gang rounded on her with such savagery that she chose never to log on again.
We regularly see tragic stories where victims of cyber bullying have been driven to suicide, and many times I feared the worst for some of the victims on the YGL board. Some of us did what we could to support those victims, and the wrath of the gang would turn on us, I am still followed and taunted to this day.
Perhaps one of the strangest things about this vile gang of cyber thugs, is the fact that they are middle aged women hiding behind anonymous screen names, who would probably be mortified should their real identities be revealed. They certainly do have much to be ashamed of.